Ohio primary includes ballot issue, GOP incumbents

ANN SANNER Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A number of incumbent Republican lawmakers in Ohio face challengers in Tuesday's primary as they try to keep their seats this fall in the Statehouse and the U.S. Capitol.

Five GOP incumbents in the state Senate have challengers, though no Democratic incumbents do. Democrats have 13 contested primary races for seats in the Ohio House, while majority Republicans have almost twice as many.

In the race for governor, the Democratic leader of the state's most populous county was looking past a little-known Dayton-area activist to take on Gov. John Kasich in November. Most observers believe Larry Ellis Ealy of Trotwood has little chance against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the Democrats' endorsed candidate.

Rick Pender, a 65-year-old Cincinnati resident and fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, said he voted for Fitzgerald.

"I hope the Democrats in Ohio get their act together," he said soon after the polls opened Tuesday morning. "It seems the Republicans are in a strong position. I'm just hopeful the Democrats can have a good ticket and do better at becoming well-known to voters."

Pender said the ultimate focus should be on the economy and job creation.

"That's been Kasich's strength, whether you agree with him or not," he said. "It still needs to improve, especially with employment."

Voters also will pick which U.S. House candidates will run in this fall; all 16 incumbents are seeking re-election.

In northeastern Ohio, Republican Rep. David Joyce has a primary challenge from state Rep. Matt Lynch, a tea party candidate who has the backing of Ohio Right to Life and FreedomWorks for America. Joyce has sought to prove his conservative credentials by stressing his votes to "repeal, replace or delay" the federal health care law "at every opportunity."

The winner will face Cleveland Democrat Michael Wager, a corporate attorney unopposed in the 14th Congressional District.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of West Chester is expected to win his bid for a 13th term in southwestern Ohio, despite some unhappiness among GOP voters about the federal deficit and immigration. The Republican faces two tea party opponents, high school teacher J.D. Winteregg and businessman Eric Gurr in the 8th District.

State Rep. Peter Beck of Mason, who faces felony charges, is among the 15 Republican incumbents in the Ohio House trying to defend seats. Beck is accused of misleading investors about a company's financial status and using their money for personal gain, allegations he denies.

Beck has two challengers for his southwest Ohio district: Mary Jo Kubicki, who is treasurer to state Rep. Ron Maag's campaign, and Paul Zeltwanger, who owns a real estate development company.

One GOP incumbent's wife is running as a write-in candidate for his Ohio House seat after a paperwork error forced him off the ballot.

State Rep. Rex Damschroder of Fremont says his wife, Rhonda, will act as a placeholder for him. Should his wife win, Damschroder has said she would leave the contest so he could be appointed to be on the November ballot as the GOP candidate. Tiffin businessman William Reineke and Richard Geyer, a Ballville Township trustee, are also seeking the nomination as write-ins.

Democratic Reps. John Barnes and Bill Patmon of Cleveland have taken heat in their primaries for breaking with their party on certain votes. The state Democratic Party has endorsed their challengers.

Open Democratic seats in the GOP-dominated state Senate have attracted multiple hopefuls, including one six-way race for term-limited Cincinnati Sen. Eric Kearney's seat. State Rep. Dale Mallory of Cincinnati is among those seeking nominations.

The election will determine the outcome of one statewide ballot issue, along with about 600 local issues.

Voters will choose whether to renew a public works program that funds repairs and upgrades to roads, bridges and other local infrastructure. The ballot issue would allow the state to borrow $1.875 billion over 10 years through the issuance of general obligation bonds.

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