No reason to vote in May primary? Guess again

Apr 6, 2014

The May 6 primary in Ohio is likely to be a relatively low turnout affair, except in locales where there are significant ballot issues to be decided.

There are no significant primaries on the Republican or Democratic side for the statewide offices, from governor on down; and there are no hot-button statewide ballot issues to draw voters to the polls.

There is a statewide constitutional amendment to allow the state to issue bonds to finance or help finance capital improvement projects for local governments.

But that ballot issue couldn’t draw flies.

There are, however, some contested candidate races on both the Democratic and Republican ballots in southwest Ohio that could draw some interest from the voters.

Here are some of the more significant ones:

54th Ohio House District (Republican):

A state representative running for re-election while awaiting trial on 69 felony fraud and theft charges is the very definition of “carrying political baggage.”

But that is exactly what State Rep. Peter Beck of Mason is doing in the 54th Ohio House District, which takes up much of Warren County and part of Butler County.

Beck is under indictment for allegedly defrauding investors in a start-up company – charges that he denies and says he will fight vigorously in court until he is vindicated and his name is cleared.

Still, it’s a load to bear.

Beck, a former Mason councilman and mayor, has already had the House leadership yank his job as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party has called on him to resign. Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder has said he has “suggested” to Beck that he might consider giving up his seat.

But Beck is having nothing of it.

And, so, he is facing a primary from two GOP opponents.

His principal challenger appears to be Mary Jo Kubicki, a Republican political activist in Deerfield Township and a cousin to Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Barry Kubicki.

She has support from State Rep. Ron Maag, a Salem Township Republican, and endorsements from a number of elected officials in Warren County. Also on the ballot is Paul Zeltwanger, a Mason real estate developer, who has the backing of the Citizens for Community Values PAC.

Whichever Republican comes out of this primary is likely to win the November election in one of the most solidly Republican districts in the state.

Will an indicted elected official be able to win a primary? We shall see.

Eighth Congressional District (Republican):

OK, let’s make it clear from the outset.

West Chester’s John Boehner, who is Speaker of the House and has held this seat since 1990, is not going to lose the GOP primary to any one of the three Republicans who filed to run against him.

But Boehner, who has taken a beating from tea party groups unhappy with his compromises with the Obama administration and the Democrats, is doing something he rarely does.

He has spent about $125,000 on TV and radio ads in the Cincinnati and Dayton media markets, which covers all of his sprawling district, from Butler County to Miami County in the north.

He hasn’t felt the need to spend money on TV since 2010, the year in which the GOP took over control of the U.S. House, leading to his election as speaker.

And he did it rarely before then. His campaigns mostly consisted of throwing up some yard signs and making an appearance here and there in the district. And he has always been re-elected by massive margins.

A group called the Tea Party Leadership Fund has spent at least $25,000 on ads critical of Boehner.

The three GOP challengers on the May 6 ballot are virtual unknowns – businessman Eric Gurr of Middletown, J.D. Winteregg of Troy, a high school teacher; and Matthew T. Ashworth, who, on his website, calls himself the founder of the United Tea Party Alliance.

None of them has the money or the name recognition to defeat Boehner, but if their aggregate vote total in the primary is rather high, it could be an embarrassment to the House speaker that he just as soon would not have to endure.

Watch on election night to see how big a Boehner “protest vote” turns out in the 8th District.

28th Ohio House District (Republican):

Democrat Connie Pillich holds this seat now, winning in 2012 even after the Republicans in the legislature changed the district – which stretches across Hamilton County’s northern suburbs – to make it more Republican.

But now Pillich is running for Ohio treasurer and it is a wide-open seat.

And the Republicans want it back.

There are three candidates on the ballot – Blue Ash council member Rick Bryan, a former mayor of that city; GOP political activist Jonathan Dever, and Kimberly Angel Clark.

GOP insiders say Bryan and Dever are the primary combatants. Bryan, who is probably going to raise more money than Dever, has the backing of some tea party groups.

The smart money rates this as a toss-up between Bryan and Dever.

Whoever wins the GOP primary will face a young Democrat named Micah Kamrass, who is a former student body president at Ohio State University and is about to  graduate from law school at Ohio State.

Kamrass has never been on the ballot before, but he is raising large amounts of money here and in Columbus. Some think he will raise more money than any other Democratic House candidate in the state.

Look for a competitive race in the fall.

9th Ohio Senate District:

State Sen. Eric Kearney is term-limited out. That means an open seat in the Ohio Senate.

It is a good district for Democrats. It has also been represented by African-Americans since 1970 – the late William F. Bowen, Janet Howard, Mark Mallory and Kearney. All but Howard were Democrats.

There are six Democrats on the May 6 primary ballot.

There is State Rep. Dale Mallory, who is term-limited out of running again in the 32nd Ohio House District – a seat previously held by his brother, Mark, and his father, the late William L. Mallory Sr.

Also running is Cecil Thomas, who was elected to four terms on Cincinnati City Council but left early last year and turned the seat over to his wife, Pamula, who lost in last fall’s council election.

Catherine Ingram, who served on the Cincinnati Board of Education from 1993 through 2013, tried and failed to get the Democratic Party endorsement for Dale Mallory’s House seat. So she jumped into the 9th Ohio Senate District race.

The other three candidates are less well-known – Angela Beamon of Bond Hill, who ran as an independent candidate for city council last year and finished 19th in a field of 21; Paul Sohi, a Mount Auburn dentist, and Joe Hye.

Mallory, Thomas and Ingram are by far the most well-known of the Democratic candidates; and one of them is likely to emerge the winner.

What about the Republicans?

They have no primary, but they have a “place-holder” candidate, Jacqueline Mikita, a party activist who party leaders say has agreed to step aside after the primary to be replaced by a better-known, well-financed GOP candidate.

And that candidate could be Republican city council member Charlie Winburn, who is considering jumping in. Winburn has proven he can raise boatloads of money; and plays well in the African-American community.

If – and it is a big if – Winburn gets in the race, this could be a barn-burner in the fall.

Those are just a few of the most interesting candidate races on the ballot in what everyone is expecting to be a low-turnout election. So, you see, there are reasons to vote in the May 6 primary after all.