Despite the Cook Partisan Index that gives the district a strong Republican lean at R+7, Democratic Rep. Zack Space has won two campaigns in eastern Ohio. As he faces his third challenge against Republican Bob Gibbs, a significant funding advantage for Space suggests he may have a close race, but he still holds most of the cards this campaign season.
Candidates for Ohio’s 18th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes Ross, Jackson, Vinton, Hocking, Morgan, Knox, Licking, Muskingum, Guernsey, Harrison, Carroll, Holmes and Coshocton counties, along with a small portion of Belmont and Athens. The cities of Chillicothe, Zanesville and New Philadelphia are within the district boundaries. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Zachary Space
Political experience: Rep. Space has served the district since January 2007. Prior to that, he was a board member for the Tuscarawas County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
Professional experience: Space was a practicing lawyer with his father at Space & Space Company, LPA.
Key issues: By voting against the health care reform, Space has upset unions. But, given how unpopular it was with constituents, his “no” vote will help him out in the district. He’s not in favor of NAFTA, CAFTA or “freer” trade agreements, which puts him in line with voters in his district. To improve educational opportunities, he believes wider access to broadband is necessary in his district.
Endorsements: Space has been endorsed by the Buckeye Firearms Association.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Financially, Space is crushing Gibbs. According to OpenSecrets.org, Space raised $1.9 million to Gibbs’ $600,000 by June 30. Space has the lion’s share of his money left as of early September — $1,267,997; Gibbs only has $209,534. Having side-stepped the health reform bill, he’s hurt his base, but he may have saved himself with the crucial independent vote in the district.
Candidate: Bob Gibbs
Political experience: Gibbs is an Ohio state senator and has served in the Ohio House of Representatives. As a state senator, he serves as the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is vice chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee.
Professional experience: Gibbs founded Hidden Hollow Farms, a livestock farm. He served on the Board of Trustees of the Ohio Farm Bureau and for two terms as the president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
Key issues: Gibbs wants to go after Space on points he hopes voters will perceive to be weak spots; Space voted for the energy bill that Republicans are calling the “cap and tax” bill. It’s not a popular bill in the district, and Gibbs knows he has traction on this issue by calling the bill a job-killer. While he can’t directly attack Space for health care reform, he can provide some reform suggestions such as tort reform, making health insurance portable across state lines and allowing citizens and small businesses to benefit from pre-tax health coverage when they purchase health insurance.
Gibbs opposes amnesty for illegal aliens and is strongly pro-life.
Endorsements: Gibbs has been endorsed by Ohio Society of CPAs and Ohio Right to Life, House Minority Leader John Boehner, representatives Bob Latta, Steve LaTourette and Steve Austria, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Chances of unseating Zack Space: The money race makes this a tough contest for Gibbs, but it’s not impossible. Though the district probably leans toward the incumbent, voters are in the mood to throw incumbents, in particular Democratic incumbents, out of office. It would have been more helpful to Gibbs if Space had voted for health reform, but he didn’t on the Senate version, which finally passed. His chances seem modest.
Key Differences between Bob Gibbs and Zack Space
Jobs: Gibbs is concerned that the current tax structure isn’t appropriate for growing manufacturing businesses in Ohio, and he’d like to see it reformed. Via RENEW Ohio, Space feels he’s already helped create jobs through medical education centers, learning centers and miner training programs.
Health care: Space wants health care reform to cover rural health providers, small businesses and seniors, which would bring down costs for those groups. Gibbs wants health insurance to stay in the hands and control of patients and for decisions to stay between doctors and patients. Neither candidate is fully in favor of the current health reforms nor does either candidate offer much defense of the bill.
Ohio’s 18th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Ohio 18th District is a large, winding eastern district running alongside much of the 6th near the West Virginia border in southeast Ohio. Numerous counties are a part of this largely rural district, as are the small cities of Zanesville and Chillicothe.
2008 results: Space defeated Fred Dailey 60 percent to 40 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 97.2 percent of the district is white, 2.5 percent black, 0.8 percent Hispanic, 0.5 percent Asian and 1 percent American Indian and Alaska Native
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Ohio 18th District a rating of R+7, providing a definite advantage to Republican candidates among district voters.