Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Special Primary proves that values matter

Our neighboring Congressional district had a primary yesterday. If that sounds a bit odd, it should be, it was a party primary for a by-election to fill the seat of Congressman Rob Portman, who is now our U.S. trade representative. The election itself will be held in August, but it was the primary that grabbed the most attention, largely because Ohio’s Second District is seen to be one of the safest Republican seats in America. One local commentator said that the day the GOP loses the Second District seat, it may be a signal of the End of the World As We Know It. Hence, most of the local press and all of the candidates are essentially operating under the assumption that the winner of the Republican Party Primary will be the winner of the open Congressional seat.

The outcome of the Primary was of interest even in this district for two reasons:

1.) The district line splits Cincinnati in two. The East Side is in the Second District, while the West Side is in the First (Steve Chabot). It is thus very fair to say that the decision of voters in one of these districts affects a very large number of citizens in the neighboring district who have no say. The Second District is also geographically huge, running from Portsmouth all the way downriver to Cincinnati.

2.) This primary was really a test of whether family values matter as a political issue. The candidate who was seen as the front-runner was Pat DeWine, the son of Ohio’s federal Senator, Mike DeWine. Pat was quick to point out how he worked to cut property taxes while a member of Cincinnati City Council. He couldn’t speak much about his record on the County Commission because he was just elected to that seat last November, and he was already grandstanding for a seat in Congress. I’m sure that reality did not sit well with Second District Republicans, and neither did the fact that DeWine just recently moved into the district, apparently with an eye to replacing the aforementioned Portman. Those factors alone, however, were not enough to defeat anyone named DeWine in Southern Ohio.

What did become the unspoken issue was Pat DeWine’s well-known status as an adulterer, a deadbeat husband, and some say he is an absent father. DeWine left his wife and children for another woman, divorced his wife, and then had the audacity to bring the adulteress with him on a couple of campaign stops (this after he attempted to trash his wife’s name with allegations proven to be false during their very public divorce). In the Second District, values are an issue. The area between Portsmouth and Cincinnati is filled with small towns and family farms, and these are God-fearing, church-going people who see their Member of Congress as a representation of themselves. All the polls indicated that DeWine, the man with the family name in Ohio politics, was the overwhelming favorite. Behind the scenes, you could hear the backroom whispers of Republican Club presidents and County Central Committeemen and Chairmen all over town and the district: “Whoremonger,” “deadbeat,” “adulterer,” hypocrite.” Senator DeWine’s stock went down, too, largely because of his refusal to condemn his son’s actions in regard to his family. The DeWines are a Catholic family, members of St. Paul’s Church in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and they have always been outspoken about their pro-life and pro-family views. Despite the obvious hypocrisy factor, polls showed Pat Dewine with a comfortable lead over his ten other opponents. Then came Primary Day yesterday:

Jean Schmidt, GOP 14,232 - 31 percent
Bob McEwen, GOP 11,565 - 25 percent
Tom Brinkman Jr., GOP 9,211 - 20 percent
Pat DeWine, GOP 5,455 - 12 percent

DeWine was absolutely routed, beaten, whipped, and all of the polls were proven wrong. Pat DeWine took all of the right positions on issues, but what beat him was his lack of integrity. People knew that he had a been a terrible husband and father, and despite his attempts to ignore the issue and attack his opponents instead, the whole strategy backfired.
Jean Schmidt would not have been my first choice, but like the other good candidates, Schmidt was able to say with honesty that she has been faithfully married to the same person for many years. That reality, combined with strong support from her former State Senate constituency, contributed to her victory. The Primary proved that integrity and values really do matter, and that having high integrity and a clear moral compass can lead to a real political payoff.

Pat DeWine: His lack of moral integrity has dealt a severe blow to his hopes of being the next member of his family to achieve federal office. Republicans in Ohio's Second Congressional District made it clear that they did not want a man who abandoned his family representing them in Congress.


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