September 10th, 2010
11:17 AM ET
10 years ago

CNN 100: Space looks for 3 in row in Ohio's coal country

 The CNN 100 takes a look at the top 100 House races, from now until Election Day.

The CNN 100 takes a look at the top 100 House races, from now until Election Day.

Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here . Today's featured district is:

Ohio 18th – Rep. Zack Space (D) is seeking a 3rd term
Primary: May 4, 2010
Location: Southern and Eastern Ohio
Days until Election Day: 53

In a Republican-leaning district of rural Ohio, Democratic Rep. Zack Space cruised to victory in 2006 and 2008.

But with the political climate favoring the GOP this year, Space might find it difficult to keep bucking the trend.

Some say Space, a Blue Dog Democrat from Dover, Ohio, was fortunate to win the seat in the first place. Indeed, Space was able to capitalize on the downfall of his predecessor, Rep. Bob Ney.

Ney, a Republican who had represented the 18th District since 1995, was forced to resign in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. Just a few months prior to the 2006 election, Ney pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and making false statements. He would eventually go on to serve time in prison.

Space easily defeated Ney's last-second replacement, state Sen. Joy Padgett, and two years later it was smooth sailing once again as Space rode the Democratic wave to a comfortable re-election.

This year, however, doesn't look promising for many Democratic incumbents, especially those, like Space, who represent Republican-friendly districts.

Looking to take advantage of the shift in public sentiment will be Space's opponent this year, state Sen. Bob Gibbs of Lakeville. Gibbs is a former businessman and farmer who spent six years in the Ohio House of Representatives before moving to the Senate in 2008.

Gibbs and his team have criticized Space for voting in favor of the "cap and trade" energy bill that passed the House and is currently stalled in the Senate. They say a "cap and trade" policy would cost more jobs in a coal-producing district that's already struggling with increased unemployment. Space told the Wheeling Intelligencer in 2009 that the legislation would actually help the coal industry in the long term by creating a market for coal in electric production.

The 18th District, in the hills of southern and eastern Ohio, has voted Republican in the past three presidential elections. George W. Bush won with 55 percent of the vote in 2000 and 57 percent in 2004. John McCain topped Barack Obama with 53 percent of the vote in 2008.

Momentum might not be on his party's side, but Space does have a sizable financial advantage over his opponent this year. As of July 27, Space had raised $1.9 million – more than three times Gibbs' total of $603,000. Space dominates even more when it comes to cash on hand: $1.3 million to $210,000.

The financial power will surely come in handy for Space, who is now facing his first real political test. There's no denying that the Democrat enjoyed favorable conditions in 2006 and 2008. If he wins this time around, he can silence those who see him as a fluke.

Filed under: 2010 • CNN 100 • Ohio • Zach Space
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