Primary season is in full swing. As a matter of fact, the primary is only three weeks away. The General Assembly has taken a recess and the incumbents with competitive races are back home campaigning, while the candidates in open seat primaries have been campaigning for months now. I’m sure they’re all happy to see Election Day fast approaching.
The majority of incumbents will not have any trouble winning their primaries next month. They typically have a strong advantage in name identification and financial resources. That being said, there are a few that have noteworthy races. Three weeks out, here are a few incumbents that are being challenged that you should keep an eye on…
House District 12 – Rep. John Barnes finds himself in a tough race. With all of the talk of Republicans being challenged from the right, here we have a Democrat incumbent being challenged from the left. His willingness to work with Speaker Batchelder has not been well received by some and has attracted a challenge from Jill Miller Zimon, a former Pepper Pike City Councilwoman and blogger. She had outraised Rep. Barnes through the end of January, but the district is 60% African-American, which plays to his favor. The Ohio Chamber Political Action Committee (OCCPaC) has endorsed Rep. Barnes in this race.
House District 27 – This is a rematch from 2012 between Rep. Peter Stautberg and former Rep. Tom Brinkman. That race appeared to be very competitive, but Rep. Stautberg took over 61% of the vote on Election Day. Brinkman has decided to make another run at it, and neither Stautberg nor the House Republicans are taking the challenge lightly. Rep. Stautberg has the support of OCCPaC, just like last time. You can read an excellent profile of the race here.
House District 51 – Faulty petitions stopped former Rep. Greg Jolivette from running for HD 51 in 2012, and after being denied a chance to run as an independent, the door was wide open for Rep. Wes Retherford. Jolivette’s petitions were error free this time and he is giving Rep. Retherford a run for his money. As a former state representative and Butler County Commissioner, Jolivette has great name identification, while Rep. Retherford is backed by the House Republican Caucus as well as OCCPaC.
House District 54 – Rep. Pete Beck faces the stiffest challenge of any incumbent. Last year, Rep. Beck was indicted on 16 charges related to theft and securities fraud. An additional 53 felony counts were added in February. These developments have undoubtedly opened the door for a primary challenge, and looking to take advantage of the situation are Mary Jo Kubicki and Paul Zeltwanger. Kubicki seems to be the most formidable challenger, having over $58,000 on hand at the end of January. To put that in perspective, Beck had raised less than $7,000 last year.
House District 86 – Dan Fogt, a Marysville City Councilman, is attempting to knock off Rep. Dorothy Pelanda in this GOP primary. Fogt has the support of Tom Zawistowski’s Ohio Citizens PAC, but isn’t what you would consider to be a “Tea Party” candidate. There are a few key issues driving this race, one of them being Rep. Pelanda’s support for House Bill 5, the Municipal Income Tax Reform and Uniformity bill backed by the Ohio Chamber. Reports from the district suggest Fogt is mounting a decent challenge, but it’s hard to imagine he will overcome Pelanda’s work ethic and financial advantage. OCCPaC endorsed Rep. Pelanda and is working to help her get elected.