October 15th, 2010
07:30 AM ET
11 years ago

CNN 100: Deja Vu in Ohio 15

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:
OH 15: Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy may lose her seat.
Primary: May 4, 2010
Location: Columbus and surrounding area
Days until the election: 18

By this time they surely know each other well. In one of dozens of re-matches of congressional races from 2008, Democratic freshman Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy is facing off again against former GOP State Senator Steve Stivers in Ohio's 15th District.

Kilroy narrowly won the seat two years ago by a mere 2,300 votes - carrying it with only 46 percent of the total.

The freshman representative is one of a number of members of Congress facing difficult re-election races in a year that is, at best, an uphill climb for incumbents, as they deal with a bad economy and public anger at Washington.

Rated one of four toss-up races in Ohio by the non-partisan Cook Political Report, Kilroy is the first Democrat to represent this district since the 1960's, and the outcomes of these contests could decide whether Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives.

Analyst Stuart Rothenberg rates this race as leaning GOP, and national Republicans think they have a good shot at capturing the seat because of the national environment and as well as concern about spending. The National Republican Congressional Committee is buying ad time in the district, according to a Republican official who asked for anonymity in order to discuss party decision-making.

Kilroy has consistently voted with congressional Democrats and President Obama on all of their key agenda items, such as the stimulus, health care reform and cap and trade climate control legislation. On the stump and in ads, she touts efforts to reign in Wall Street as a key accomplishment.

In a district that includes parts of the state capital – Columbus – as well as its suburbs, Kilroy is not shying away from campaigning on the health care issue, unlike some of her colleagues in tough re-election campaigns. She believes the bill is more popular in her area, which has a lot of health care providers, than in the rest of the country.

"I've been talking to people in my community about health care basically since I took office," Kilroy told CNN in an interview last month. "And after the health care vote, I've been going around and talking to people about what is in it. Like seniors, improving Medicare, making the Medicare trust fund last longer. Making sure that seniors have vital benefits. Explaining what is in it for them. And they are starting to see the details. They are going to be able to get that physical. They are going to be able to get those preventive tests."

Kilroy, a former Franklin County Commissioner, must motivate the Democratic base, including the youth vote at Ohio State University, to come out in order for her to pull out a victory. The economy in the area is better than nationally. President Obama carried the district two years ago with 54% of the vote while President George W. Bush won it the two previous elections.

President Obama is expected to visit Ohio on a campaign swing over the weekend.

National Democrats feel Kilroy's chances have improved recently and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved air time in the district, a Democratic official who requested anonymity to discuss internal decision-making told CNN.

Stivers, a former bank lobbyist and long-time Ohio National Guardsman, emphasizes his fiscal conservatism in his stump speeches as well as in his paid advertising. He has gone after Kilroy for too much government spending and votes that would raise the debt.

"She spent money we don't have and this is a swing district, and she is the most liberal congressional member in a swing district. She also has voted with her party 98.4 percent of the time so she's really putting her party above the constituency in this district and what they really want is someone who will focus on jobs and try to cut the spending," Stivers told CNN in an interview last month.

Kilroy has said more work needs to be done to create jobs and that attention needs to be paid to the deficit as well. "I think that we need to be serious about the deficit. And to be serious about the deficit, from what I hear from a lot of voters as well, I think we need to do a couple of things. I mean I think pay-go was a good way to go, symbolic things like freezing my pay is a good way to go.'

She has blasted Stivers for flip-flopping on issues, such as Cap and Trade and whether to repeal the 17th amendment which gives the people the direct vote for their Senator. Stivers counters that his changed positions had to do with the specifics of the particular bills or new information or changed circumstances.

According to a campaign adviser, Kilroy raised over $603,000 in the third quarter, more than double what she brought in the previous quarter. Stivers, however, raised $757,000 in the third quarter - the fourth consecutive reporting period in which the GOP candidate bested his Democratic opponent, according to his campaign.

- You can follow CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn on Twitter: @KevinBohnCNN

Filed under: 2010 • CNN 100 • Ohio
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Augsbee

    Kilroy might win with the help of senior citizens because after all why should senior citizens care that the next generation will be stuck paying back all the money we are borrowing and they might be facing the U.S. in bankruptcy if we keep spending millions on people who don't work at all because they feel they should be taken care off by the government because they have the right to it and therefore they are not putting back in the pot the money we are spending on them.

    October 15, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |