If the Republicans are to take the House back this fall, they will need to win the swing districts in the swing states. Ohio’s 15th District, which includes Columbus, home of The Ohio State University, is likely to see an intense political battle. Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy represents this D+1 district. Prior to Kilroy’s election in 2008, the 15th district had 42 years of Republican representation.
Republican Steve Stivers appears most likely to challenge Kilroy. With a primary coming up next Tuesday, Stivers is nearly tied with Kilroy in fundraising with $830 thousand cash-on-hand as of April 14. Stivers is a 25-year National Guard Veteran, former State Senator and an NRCC Young Gun.
In a phone interview with TAS, Stivers attacked Kilroy for her affirmative votes on the Stimulus Bill, Cap-and-Trade, and Healthcare Reform. Speaking about cap-and-trade, Stivers attacked its effects on the Midwest, “It’s a big wealth transfer … 93 percent of our power in Ohio is powered by coal power plants. It would transfer the wealth from places here out to the coasts where they have hydroelectric, nuclear power, and other power. And it would raise our electricity rates by over 50 percent.”
While Stivers hammered the healthcare bill, he stopped short of advocating complete repeal. He attacked the bill’s costs, lack of tort reform, and told TAS he believed this bill would increase medical liabilities costs. He did however, praise the bill for addressing the issue of pre-existing conditions and its allowing young-adults under the age of 26 to stay under their parents’ plan.
A Bronze Star recipient and Iraq War veteran, Stivers praised the president’s decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan, but expressed concern over the new nuclear policy. Regarding the administration’s new policy limiting the circumstances where it would consider using nuclear weapons, Stivers said, “I don’t advocate taking it [the use of nuclear weapons] off the table.” He also pointed out that the number of military veterans serving in Congress is at an all-time low. “I’m not sure we have enough people in the Congress with military experience who know what questions to ask,” Stivers told TAS.
Stivers came very close to winning in 2008, losing by less than a percentage point with just over 45 percent of the vote. Given the changes in national trends over the last two years, one might expect Stivers to cruise into the House. On the other hand, Kilroy now enjoys the advantages of incumbency, and Stivers might also run into some opposition on the right. Stivers, who considers himself fiscally conservative and socially moderate, expects Constitution Party and Libertarian Party candidates to run as well.
This race was cited by the Wall Street Journal as an example of “Rahm’s Way”, Rahm Emanuel’s strategy of recruiting military veterans on the Democratic side to run for office, often as centrists. While Stivers is a military veteran and a centrist on some issues, he could use some support and enthusiasm from the base as well to turn-out the extra couple percentage points needed to turn Columbus red.