Butler County GOP to recommend Statehouse replacement Thursday

The presumptive front-runner in the race to replace Ohio Rep. Margy Conditt in Columbus will be known Thursday evening.

That’s when the Butler County GOP will make its endorsement on the candidate to succeed Conditt, R-Liberty Twp., as the representative for the state’s 52nd House District representing Fairfield, Liberty and West Chester townships, and the Butler County portion of Sharonville.

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Seven people had sent in resumes and letters of interest to Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger, who formed a screening panel after Conditt announced her resignation. But only five are seeking the county GOP’s endorsement. They are:

  • Ann Becker, 41, of West Chester Twp.
  • Jeff Kursman, 46, of Liberty Twp.
  • George Lang, 55, of West Chester Twp.
  • Anu Mital, 34, of Liberty Twp.
  • Lee Wong, 65, of West Chester Twp.

Candidates John Haberer, 53, of West Chester Twp., and Grace Kendrick, 51, of West Chester Twp., 51, did not request the party’s endorsement, according to the Butler County GOP.

A county political party's endorsement, or a recommendation, does not guarantee an appointment, just as it was the case in the Middletown Municipal Judge race. A contingent of the GOP's Central Committee that represent the party in the municipal court district recommended local attorney James Sherron to replace the late Judge Mark Wall on the bench until the November election.

However, Ohio Gov. John Kasich in May chose Melynda Cook Howard instead.

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Rosenberger has appointed six of the 99 members of the Ohio House, including Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, who went on to win the November 2016 general election and was sworn-in to the seat vacated by former Rep. Tim Derickson, R-Hanover Twp., earlier in 2016.

Four of the six current members appointed to an Ohio House seat were filled by candidates who had already won either a primary or general election, said Brad Miller, spokesman for the Ohio Speaker’s office.

“While county parties have the right to endorse certain applicants to fill open seats, the screening panel assembled in the House assesses every applicant equally based on an individual’s qualifications before making a determination,” Miller said.

The two previous times a screening panel was assembled in order to make an appointment, county Republican parties did not issue endorsements of any particular applicant, he said.

The timing of Conditt’s resignation “is probably a good thing for the Republican Party,” said Miami University political science professor John Forren. “It gives party leaders an opportunity to vet potential replacements within the party — and the party’s choice can then run in the next election with all of the advantages of incumbency.”

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Conditt’s replacement will have more than a year in office before running for election in November 2018.

However, Forren said this provides “an interesting opportunity” for Butler County Democrats despite the district, and the county, being a Republican stronghold since the 1970s.

“Historical trends and recent polling suggest that 2018 may be a good year for Democrats generally — and if the Democrats locally can recruit a strong candidate to run against the newly appointed representative next year, it could prove to be a more competitive race than many might suspect,” he said.

The challenge is beating history, however. None of Butler County’s Ohio House or Senate seats have not been held by a Democrat since their respective creations, most of them in the late 1960s.

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