Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, a Democrat in an evenly divided race, is facing a major challenge as her 2008 opponent, Republican Steve Stivers, is back for a second crack at the Ohio 15th Congressional District. Stivers has been trying to appeal to Tea Party activists, which may help push moderate voters in Kilroy’s direction; but independents are shying away from Democrats this season, making this district a real toss-up at the moment.
Candidates for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes all of Union and Madison counties, as well as roughly half of Franklin. West, downtown, and part of southern Columbus, as well as the western suburbs, are all within this district. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Mary Jo Kilroy
Political experience: Kilroy is the incumbent, and she has been since winning the 2008 election and assuming office in January 2009. According to her website, she serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Homeland Security Committee. She’s the former Franklin County Commissioner and served on the Columbus Board of Education.
Professional experience: Prior to her public service, Kilroy was a social worker, hospital worker and tutor. She practiced law as a partner in the law firm of Handleman and Kilroy.
Key issues: While discussing jobs, health care, consumer protections and a number of issues on her site, as a former Board of Education member, she wants to increase the Pell Grant. She notes her support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped boost and protect local education funding, besides protecting the region from further job losses.
In her capacity on the House Homeland Security Committee, she points to legislation she has voted for that helped put more cops on the streets and bolstered transportation security and military readiness.
Endorsements: She lists no 2010 endorsements, but Kilroy was uncontested in the primaries. According to OpenSecrets.org, Kilroy has received $72,610 in donations from Emily’s List and $16,750 from Ohio State University.
Chances of maintaining her seat: It’s difficult to say with any certainty in late August, but her chances of re-election look slim. Historically, it has been a Republican district, though recent races have been neck-and-neck. Funding has been about even, with neither candidate having a decisive edge, according to OpenSecrets.org. It’s a tight race, but Kilroy has the benefit of having a record to spin, and historically incumbents usually manage to keep their seat by margins of 85 to 98 percent, per OpenSecrets.org. But in close districts all over the country, it’s races just like this one in which incumbents are most at risk due to the prevailing anti-incumbent mood.
Candidate: Steve Stivers
Political experience: The Republican candidate was an Ohio state senator from 2002 to 2008.
Professional experience: Stivers worked at the Banc One Ohio Corp, and he served in the Ohio Army National Guard, holding the rank of lieutenant colonel. He completed a one-year deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar and Djibouti, during which he was awarded the Bronze Star.
Key issues: On Stivers’ website, he is tracking the gross national debt and each person’s share of that debt; like many Republicans this election cycle, he is touting his opposition to legislation that he feels increases debt, gets in the way of the free market, and interferes with doctor-patient decision-making that would create increased bureaucracy.
He notes he strongly supports the Afghanistan mission, favoring giving Operation Enduring Freedom the troops and equipment needed to carry out the mission. (He mentions supporting Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who recently retired.) He is for gun rights and right-to-life legislation.
Endorsements: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Restaurant Association, National Rifle Association, Ohio State Medical Association, Ohio Right to Life, Ohio Veterans United, Vets for Freedom, Ohio Society of CPAs, National Association of Independent Business are among the listed endorsements Stivers is claiming thus far.
Chances of unseating Mary Jo Kilroy: This is a toss-up and a rematch between two candidates who, during the Democratic surge of 2008, found their race so close it nearly required a recount. This time, Stivers has the Tea Party and a backlash against Democrats in Congress on his side. While Kilroy can point to legislation she has helped craft, Stivers can point to the same legislation and pick it apart by pointing to perceived flaws that may appeal to independent voters and an energized base. Though a toss-up, the Republican Party may be eager to fund a win so long as Stivers campaigns well.
Key Differences between Steve Stivers and Mary Jo Kilroy
Wall Street Reform: As the Columbus Dispatch reports, this may well be the key issue between the two candidates. As a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, Kilroy is proud of her work on the recent reform bill, including the creation of a consumer-protection agency and executive compensation disclosure requirements. Stivers was a lobbyist for Bank One, so Kilroy may try to make up some ground in this area. For his part, Stivers is arguing that not only is he proud of his work for Banc One, but also that the legislation has little to do with financial reform and has some provisions, including one that makes it easier to sue credit-rating agencies, that favor lawyers such as Kilroy.
Health Care: Stivers opposes the current health care reform legislation passed during Kilroy’s term, referring to it as government run-health care. While he acknowledges that cost and access are issues that Congress must address, he opposes the current approach. Kilroy argues that her vote for reform has provided benefits by closing the so-called “donut hole” in prescription drug coverage and by preventing insurance companies from denying access due to pre-existing conditions.
Energy Independence: Kilroy believes alternative energies and a reduction of carbon emissions are an important aspect of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil, in securing the homeland and in cleaning up the environment. Stivers feels the cap-and-tax plan will be a job-killer, and that the best way to approach energy independence is to encourage an energy plan that emphasizes nuclear and clean coal options, along with green-energy technology.
Ohio’s 15th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Ohio 15th District located in west-central Ohio and includes most of Columbus and counties and towns west of the city, east of Dayton, an southwest of Marion. Union, Madison, and Franklin counties are found in this district, as is Marysville, London, Richwood, Mt. Sterling and Grove City.
2008 results: Kilroy barely edged out Stivers, 46 percent to 45 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 81.1 percent of the district is white, 8.4 percent black, 4.1 percent Hispanic, 3.7 percent Asian and 0.2 percent American Indian or Alaska Native.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Ohio 15th District a rating of D+1, meaning this district is highly competitive with a very slight Democratic lean.