The hottest Congressional race in southwest Ohio is the one to replace retired House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp.
Twenty candidates, including 17 Republicans, submitted nominating petitions for the March 15 primary, according to the Butler County Board of Elections. Not all live in the district, which is not required under the U.S. Constitution.
Candidates are not officially on the ballot until county boards of election certify that their nominating petitions are valid and have enough signatures. The deadline for certification is Dec. 28, but board of elections officials said they will meet on Dec. 21 to certify.
Boehner, a West Chester Twp. Republican, battled conservatives within his own party, finally stepping down as speaker and resigning from Congress in October after 25 years. It created the rare vacancy in a Congressional seat.
All of the candidates filed both for the special election to fill the remainder of Boehner’s term through 2016 and to be elected to a full two-year term.
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Xavier University political science professor Mack Mariani said “there are a number of very serious candidates,” and so many are drawn to this race because it’s a rare opportunity, especially for politicians with aspirations for a higher office.
“This is your shot, and it’s probably your only shot,” Mariani said. “If you want to run, and you’re a legislator, this is the opportunity to run for that brass ring.”
Cedarville University political science professor Mark C. Smith said this election is attracting a large field for a number of reasons. Special elections have a smaller window for activity, and the compressed activity makes it “more feasible to jump in quickly and not spend one to two years preparing for a race,” he said.
The job is also a desirable one, he said.
“It is powerful, prestigious and is a good springboard to other opportunities — running for higher office, lobbying or re-entering the private sector with a much stronger resume,” Smith said.
The candidates who filed include Democrat Corey Foister of Fairfield, Libertarian Robert Coogan of Hamilton and Jim Condit Jr., of Cincinnati, who is running as a Constitution Party member for the special election and as a Green Party member in the race for the full term.
The Republicans who filed are: Matthew Ashworth of Hamilton; State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City; Warren Davidson of Troy; State Rep. Tim Derickson,R-Oxford; Donald Feerer of Hamilton; Scott George of Troy; Eric Haemmerle of West Chester Twp.; Terri King of Middletown; Joseph Matvey of West Chester Twp.; Edward Meer of West Chester Twp.; Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds of Middletown; John Robbins of Monroe; Michael Smith of Germantown; James Spurlino of Centerville; Kevin White of New Carlisle; J.D. Winteregg of Troy; and George Wooley of Troy.
The bulk of the district’s population lives in Butler County, but the Republican party there was unable to decide on someone to endorse. The district includes all of Butler, Miami, Clark, Darke and Preble counties and part of Mercer County.
This could be an interesting race because of the uncertain political climate for “established candidates,” Smith said.
“Outsiders have never seen the establishment as more vulnerable, so they have an incentive to make a go of it, especially if the relative costs are lower than normal,” he said.
Mariani called it an “anti-establishment year,” adding the presidential race could impact the 8th Congressional District race, especially if Donald Trump remains the favorite among Republican voters.
“That is a real uncertainty,” Mariani said. “But it’s hard to tell.”
Boehner endorsing a particular candidate could also turn the tide, Mariani said.
“Being the elder statesmen means not getting too involved, but you can be involved without being involved,” Mariani said, noting a Boehner endorsement could also backfire on a candidate.