It's Official: Aftab Pureval Is Running For Steve Chabot's House Seat

Jan 31, 2018

Democrat Aftab Pureval said it best Wednesday morning when he spoke to a crowded room of supporters in Avondale: his candidacy for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Steve Chabot was "the worst kept secret in Cincinnati."

After months of speculation, the 35-year-old Pureval, who pulled off a stunning upset victory over a Republican incumbent in the 2016 race for Hamilton County clerk of courts, made it official in an enthusiastic rally at Avondale's Gabriel's Place, a non-profit involved in urban agriculture.

Pureval made it clear what the campaign strategy will be in the district, made up of western Hamilton County and all of heavily-Republican Warren County – he intends to paint Chabot as a rubber stamp for President Trump.

Trump carried the district by seven percentage points in 2016 – far below the performance of Chabot, who won over Indian Hill lawyer Michele Young by 18 percentage points.

"Donald Trump is not on the ballot in 2018,'' Pureval told the crowd. "But members of Congress like Steve Chabot who have been doing his bidding without objection – you had better believe they are on the ballot in 2018."

Hillary Clinton won Hamilton County by 10 percentage points in 2016 and Democrats believe that Warren County – which the Republicans in the legislature added to Chabot's district after the 2010 election as re-election insurance – is changing and that enough voters there can be convinced to enable Pureval to pull out another upset victory.

There is a belief in the Pureval camp there will be a surge in Democratic voting, anti-Trump voting this year and that they can tap into that.

"It's on us to get energized; it's on us to show up to the polls in November, and tell Steve Chabot and the Congress that has enabled Donald Trump, 'You're fired,'' Pureval said.

Cody Rizzuto, a spokesman for the Chabot campaign, put out a written statement after Pureval's announcement saying the Democrat's candidacy "is a nearly flawless combination of arrogance, inexperience and political opportunism."

"Aftab isn't from Cincinnati or Warren County and he doesn't live in the district,'' Rizzuto said.

Pureval told reporters he does live in the district, saying he and his fiancée have moved from Hyde Park to downtown. Chabot is from Westwood, which is in the district. The Constitution does not require house members to live in the districts they represent.

The newest Democratic candidate may well have a May primary battle. Robert Barr, a rabbi; and Laura Ann Weaver, a dentist, have both filed as Democrats in the 1st District. Young, who ran against Chabot two years ago, told WVXU she is still considering whether or not to get in the race.

Pureval has a back-story that is compelling to many people. He is the son of a father from Indian and a Tibetan mother who survived a dangerous trek through the Himalayan Mountains to escape the Chinese communists. She went to India and went to college, where she met her husband to be.

His parents decided to come to the U.S. 40 years ago, and settled in, of all places, Beavercreek, Ohio, outside of Dayton. Their son was born in Ohio.

Pureval went to Ohio State University and became the student body president – a post that often opens the door to a career in politics.

He earned his law degree at the University of Cincinnati and went to work for a Washington, D.C. law firm, where he did pro bono work helping battered women.

Pureval returned to Cincinnati as a special assistant U.S. attorney and left to become an attorney at Procter & Gamble, which is what he was doing when he was elected clerk of courts.

He's barely into the first year of his four-year term. He knows that Republicans will criticize him for abandoning his post to run for higher office.

"I've done the job I promised to do,'' Pureval said. "I promised the people of Hamilton County I would reform that office and I have done that."