Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ney Makes Re-Election Bid Official

Embattled US Rep. Bob Ney (R-Bellaire) announced his re-election bid today to his US House seat (Oh-18) in eastern-central Ohio. Ney has been recently implicated as the infamous "Representative No. 1" in court documents obtained from convicted DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But despite all the recent ethical questions surrounding Ney, he has remained amazingly popular in his home Congressional district. But Ney's critics have not been exclusive to Democrats here in Ohio, Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett said, "If he's indicted for a felony, we would ask him to step aside until the matter is cleared up." Ney responded angrily, "No party boss tells my constituents what to do..." Ney will likely face former St. Rep. and current Chillicothe Mayor Joseph Sulzer, Sr. Sulzer's House campaign against Ney has been MIA recently, which still only has a temporary website up on the internet and accepts online contributions only through a Democratic third party organization, ActBlue. Sulzer has been viewed by many as something of a political novice, especially when he continually mispronounced convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's surname as "Abaramoff." And while some national political figures like Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) have given away contributions from Ney's PAC that they received as candidates during the 2004 election cycle, some state lawmakers in Ohio are standing firmly behind Ney and refusing to give up donations from his PAC:

"I looked him in the eye," St. Sen. Joy Padgett said. "We've talked. If he says to me that he is going to be cleared of all of this, then I believe him."

"Bob has worked hard for us, and his constituents know that," State Rep. Jim Aslanides (R-Coshocton) said. "And I'm anxious for all the facts to come out in the case, because knowing Bob as I do, I'm confident that most of those concerned and their concerns will be mollified."

Additionally, Ohio Republicans have claimed they took a poll in Ney's Congressional district when Ney was first implicated in the Abramoff scandals and that he is still "not in trouble." But the recent confrontation with Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett highlights the high stakes of this House race and the GOP prioritiy of retaining the seat in their grasp.

Analysis: Just a few weeks ago I assumed Ney would be stepping aside from his re-election effort and someone along the lines of Joy Padgett would be stepping in for Republicans and maintaining the seat for the GOP. And if somehow Ney stayed on and ran, it'd be a very close election in a Republican district that he would ultimately lose. Now I think Ney has to be the favored candidate. His main Democratic opponent, Joe Sulzer, does not even appear to have a campaign appartus up and working yet, and it's January 24th and counting. Sulzer seems almost aloof, unable to effectively fundraise, and merely running because he sees a potentially vulnerable incumbent. But Ney might not be as vulnerable as conventional wisdom would have us believe, he has $600,000 in his campaign warchest and many high profile endorsements within his district. As the Cook Political Report has now been predicting, this House seat now leans Republican, at the very least.


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