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6th District race in the national spotlight


Published: Fri, March 10, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


It's still about two months before the Ohio 6th Congressional District primary, but the U.S. House race is receiving a considerable amount of national attention.
The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting it as its No. 1 open House seat in the country. The committee is already pursuing an aggressive campaign to make sure the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lisbon Democrat, is won by state Rep. Charles Blasdel, an East Liverpool Republican.
The NRCC had anticipated a fight in the November general election between Blasdel and state Sen. Charles A. Wilson Jr., a St. Clairsville Democrat.
Both candidates face opponents in the May 2 primary. But it was presumed in early February by officials with both parties that Blasdel and Wilson would win their respective primaries and face off in November.
It's been well documented that Wilson screwed up his nominating petitions, including obtaining close to half of the signatures from voters who don't live in the district, and was kicked off the ballot.
Wilson is running as a write-in candidate in the May primary. That is going to cost Wilson a considerable amount of money that would have been better spent in the general election.
While Wilson is supported by many Democratic officials, he still must get thousands and thousands of Democratic voters in 12 counties, including Columbiana and Mahoning, to write his name on the congressional ballot. That's a daunting task to say the least.
Fortunately for Wilson, his two Democratic opponents, whose names will appear on the ballot, cannot come close to matching him financially so it's not out of the question that he can win in May.
But the petition issue seriously damages Wilson's credibility making voters question how can he make tough decisions as a congressman if he can't get 50 valid signatures on his nominating petitions.
There is no doubt the NRCC and Blasdel's campaign would much rather see Bob Carr of Wellsville or John Stephen Luchansky of Boardman as the Democratic nominee in this race.
A challenge from Carr or Luchansky would cost a fraction of the money needed to face Wilson in the general election.
The NRCC is fully committed to spending whatever it takes to win this congressional race -- a figure that could easily exceed $4 million.
With that in mind, the NRCC is doing everything it can to discredit Wilson now in order to make sure he loses the Democratic primary. It's easier to spend $1 million to $2 million to help defeat Wilson in the Democratic primary than to spend $4 million or so against him through the entire election process.
Challenging Wilson's credibility after the petition fiasco is easy.
The NRCC is also investigating Wilson's past. That past includes Wilson's concerns in the mid-1990s as the head of a Belmont County wastewater authority about too much attention being paid to the agency dumping raw sewage into the Ohio River.
A link to an article in The Vindicator earlier this week about that issue was posted on the Web including the Drudge Report, an extremely popular national political site.
The sewage issue has been used against Wilson during his four successful runs for the Ohio House, and his 2004 state Senate victory.
Ed Patru, an NRCC spokesman who can best be described as an attack dog when it comes to Wilson, said the other campaigns using this issue were ineffective because they were "Kmart blue-light specials, low-budget efforts."
In a 2002 Ohio House race, the Ohio Republican Party and Chairman Robert T. Bennett mailed fliers in Wilson's race attacking him for the sewage dumping issue.
"The statement was to merely make the point that the campaigns against Charlie Wilson were low-budget in comparison to a congressional race that is the No. 1 open seat target for Republicans," Patru said.
While I'm sure Bennett doesn't like to be called a "Kmart blue-light special," John McClelland said the ORP and the chairman aren't offended by Patru's comments.
The state Republicans send out mailers for their state legislative candidates because the party can send them at bulk rate, he said. It doesn't necessarily translate into any further assistance from the party, McClelland said.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is currently taking a softer approach on this race compared to the NRCC, believes the Republican committee's negative effort could backfire and hurt Blasdel.
A DCCC spokeswoman also said national Republicans shouldn't interfere with Wilson's Democratic primary. Patru says that is hypocritical because the DCCC is actively involved in Wilson's campaign.


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