Race in 6th District looms

On the side

Political headliner: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee’s chairwoman, will be the keynote speaker at the Aug. 26 Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman’s Dinner.

The event starts at 5:30 p.m. and will be at the Zoldan family house in Canfield.

If you want to go, dig deep because each ticket is $500.

Those wanting tickets can call party Chairman David Betras at 800-457-2889 or John Vivo, the party’s secretary, at 330-719-3869.

During last year’s presidential election, Wasserman Schultz campaigned twice in the Mahoning Valley for Barack Obama.

Filing deadline: Wednesday is the filing deadline for those wanting to run in the November general election for nonpartisan seats such as township trustee and fiscal officer, and for seats on local school boards.

The general election for the 6th Congressional District seat isn’t until November 2014, but it appears the Democratic and Republican candidates are set.

Barring unusual circumstances — and they’ve been known to occur, particularly one that won’t happen for another 15 months — U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta, will face the challenge of former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison, a Democrat from Marietta, for that seat.

They may face opposition in their party’s May 2014 primaries, but it would be shocking if it came from a candidate who could legitimately challenge them.

Some Democratic officials have told me for the last two months that state Sen. Lou Gentile of Steubenville, D-30th, who “gave very serious consideration” to running in next year’s primary for the 6th, wouldn’t seek the seat.

On Tuesday, Gentile made it official when he told me he wouldn’t run for Congress next year. He said he can better serve eastern Ohio by remaining in the state Senate instead of the 6th, which includes all of Columbiana County and the southern and central-western portions of Mahoning County.

While that’s a reason why Gentile won’t run, it’s not the only one.

The 6th is going to be one of three U.S. House races in Ohio that has the potential to be competitive next year.

Like the other two, the 14th and 16th Districts, the 6th solidly lean Republican based on the 2012 election results, which came after GOP leaders redrew congressional districts to make those three stronger for their party to retain.

For Gentile to win, he’d have to raise a lot of money.

Successful bid

He did that last year when he won the open 30th race in what was the Republicans’ top target in the state Senate.

Because of the money invested in him by Democrats, there’s hesitation to have Gentile run for Congress shortly after winning an expensive and competitive state Senate race.

In politics, timing isn’t everything, but it’s extremely important.

There just isn’t a groundswell among Democrats — or at least not yet — for next year’s election. This isn’t 2006 when Democrats made tremendous gains in Ohio and the nation.

Gentile won’t be able to ride anyone’s coattails in the 2014 election.

Should Garrison lose to Johnson next year, the 2016 election for the 6th District would include a Democrat running for the open presidential seat at the top of the ticket.

While that wasn’t enough to help Democrat Charlie Wilson beat Johnson last year with President Barack Obama successfully running for re-election, it could help Gentile if he seeks the seat in 2016.

Not running in 2014 is a calculated risk for Gentile.

Should Garrison win next year, forget about Gentile as a congressional candidate in 2016.

But look for Gentile to raise his profile in the next year. He’s already highly regarded by statewide Democratic leaders and has been sent to party events throughout the state as a speaker.

Should Garrison be successful next year in her congressional bid, don’t be surprised to see Gentile run for statewide office three years from now.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.