Lots Of Head-Scratching Over Seemingly Pointless Special Election
Attention! Calling all Democrats of Ohio's Eighth Congressional District!
You have a special election Sept. 13!
And when we say "special," we mean very special indeed.
It's your chance to go to the polls and choose a candidate for the U.S. House in the November election, to serve a two-year term in the seat given up last year by former House Speaker John Boehner.
And guess what?
There will be only one candidate on the ballot. His name is Steve Fought, a retired lawyer from Toledo (which is not in the district) who is moving to Springfield (which is in the district). Not that it matters – there's nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires a candidate for the House to actually live in the district.
Fought (as in "boat") is a former aide to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur who has been around Ohio Democratic politics for decades, but has never run for office.
So, if you are so inclined on Sept. 13, you can go to your local polling place and cast a ballot for Steve Fought.
And, if you don't like that choice, you can always vote for Steve Fought.
Or if you are really fed up with the system and demand change, you can vote for Steve Fought.
It's Steve Fought, or nothing, folks. Take it or leave it.
Don't even bother trying to write your best friend's name in. Nobody has filed as a write-in candidate, so any other name scribbled on a ballot won't count.
But wait, you may ask, haven't we already done this primary thing?
Didn't we go to the polls (or a small percentage of us anyway) in the March primary and choose a 26-year-old political novice from West Chester, Corey Foister, to be our standard bearer?
Did our candidate not run against Republican Warren Davidson of Troy, a business owner and former Army Ranger, who wiped the floor with Foister in the June 7 special election for the remainder of Boehner's term, winning 77 percent of the vote?
Well, yes, all of that is true. It wasn't a dream sequence.
Foister was all set to take on Davidson – who is now a sitting congressman – in the November election for a full two-year term.
Until July 25, that is. That's when Foister, first on social media and then officially, quit the race. Took a powder. Gonesville.
Leaving the Democrats with no candidate in a district that is one of the most Republican in the state.
So, you might ask, why can't the Democratic Party leadership just get together and choose somebody to replace Foister?
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted looked into the matter and found that Ohio law requires that a special election be held if a candidate withdraws from the race more than 90 days before the general election.
Foister wasn't even close – his withdrawal came 107 days before the election.
So the counties which make up the Eighth Congressional District – Butler, Preble, Darke, Miami, Clark and part of Mercer (where Fought is from originally) – have to open up all of their polling places on Sept. 13, staff them with poll workers and wait for Democrats to trickle in to vote for, well, the only candidate on the ballot – Steve Fought.
Election officials are hopping mad that they have to go through this. So is Husted. They are trying to get the law changed in Ohio so this will never, ever happen again.
"I had no choice but to call a special primary election,'' Husted told WVXU. "I've made it a policy to always follow the law. All I can do is work to get the legislature to change the law; and I'm pretty sure they will."
Here's what will really rile people up about this situation – it's going to cost the taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 to conduct this election. An election with one candidate on the ballot.
Husted said his office will reimburse the county boards of elections for their expenses, but still it is taxpayers' money being thrown down a sinkhole.
After the decision was made that a primary was required by law, the Democrats had one day to scramble for a candidate, because Husted said military ballots had to go on Saturday, July 30 for a special primary election.
Fought was the one who stepped forward. He called Jocelyn Bucaro, who chairs the Butler County Democratic Party, while she was on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on the last night of the Democratic National Convention to tell her he wanted to run.
"Look, I understand that I am running in what is probably the most Republican district in the state,'' Fought told WVXU. "I know that perfectly well. But I really believe that people deserve a choice in November."
And, he said, he can use the opportunity to go out and register more Democrats for the November election.
It is hard to overestimate just how Republican this district is.
Davidson won the June special election to fill out the remainder of Boehner's term with 77 percent of the vote.
Boehner was first elected to the seat in 1990. When he had opposition, his vote totals in those elections ranged from 64 percent to 71 percent of the vote. In 2012, the Democrats didn't even bother to run a candidate against him.
Davidson may be new, but there is no question that he will be the heavy favorite in November. Even Fought will tell you that.
All this special election business will be happening as the county boards of elections work to prepare for the biggest election of them all – a presidential election.
"The timing of this could not possibly be worse,'' said Diane J. Noonan, director of the Butler County Board of Elections. "We are trying to prepare for a presidential election and suddenly, we have this to deal with.
"We have to open up all 89 polling places, staff them with poll workers and conduct an election where there is only one candidate on the ballot,'' Noonan said.
Throughout the district, only six percent of the registered voters in the six counties showed up on June 7 to elect Davidson to the unexpired term.
That six percent will look huge compared to the turnout for the Sept. 13 Democratic primary.
"I would be shocked if we have a thousand voters show up,'' Noonan said.
Well, at least it won't take long to declare a winner on election night.