CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Well-placed insiders say that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, a Republican who once served as Ohio's state treasurer, won't run in the primary for the Oh-02 seat now held by U.S. Rep Jean Schmidt. They said it looks like Schmidt will have to face another challenger from her own party, Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich, who is leaving office soon after spending a record $1.39 million in a failed reelection bid.
UPDATE, Tuesday, December 19: Just back from making some rounds and several Republicans who are prominent in Hamilton County thought that I should have mentioned Ken Blackwell in this post. They said he has in the past been interested in a congressional seat from his hometown, Cincinnati, and that he ran and lost in 1990 as the GOP nomineee for Oh-01. Then, he wasn't well-known statewide. He also tried to get on the ballot once in the 1980s, but was blocked after running afoul of some complex twist in Ohio's election laws. These GOPers said Blackwell -- who was thumped last month in the governor's contest by Ted Strickland -- should be on the list as a strong possibility for Oh-02 in a primary against Schmidt. They were checking to see how he ran compared to Schmidt did in the district's counties (I have not had time to find this out myself). As far as I know, nobody has heard anything directly from the outgoing Secretary of State about future political ambitions. I haven't. But it is a good question to ask: Might he be thinking about Congress? Bet he won't give a straight answer until long about a year from now. END.
The defeat has not soured his taste for electoral politics, and Heimlich recently told Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Peter Bronson that one reason he went under was, "The anti-Republican tsunami." Bronson has been a Heimlich booster over the years and strangely the column omitted any mention of Heimlich's future plans. Bronson said Heimlich was a straight-A student during his college years at Stanford University, and added that Heimlich "always does his homework."
Here's what Heimlich's homework assignment has been: Schmidt is seen as weak by Democrats and Republicans alike. Deters had been rumored for the 2008 primary, but has small children and isn't interested in moving to Washington, according to what is being whispered around the courthouse these days.
Meanwhile, Schmidt's grip on the House district that stretches east from downwtown Cincinnati -- and touches seven counties -- isn't exactly ironclad. She has barely turned back two novice Democratic challengers -- Paul Hackett and Victoria Wulsin -- in a chunk of real estate that used to be owned by the GOP under her predecessor, Rob Portman. Portman is now the Bush White House budget director. In Oh-02, he squashed Dems like an Abrams tank rolling over a ladybug; Schmidt barely squeezes by. Wulsin missed by an eyelash, and raised a little over $1 million, which shows how competitive Oh-02 has suddenly become.
Here's more from the homework paper: If he does run, Heimlich's assets include strong name recognition across the region. He's probably better known than Schmidt (he's been on TV news for years and his dad, Henry, invented the Heimlich Maneuver). He's a proven money raiser. He is politically ambitious. For a time, he was Jim Petro's lieutenant governor running mate, and passed on the Oh-02 race after Portman resigned so he could remain on the statewide ticket. He bailed on Petro at the urging of local party leaders who worried they would lose his county commission seat if he didn't seek reelection. Now he needs a job and the primary is not even two years out.
There are signs that Heimlich is no fan of Schmidt. He's close to COAST, the anti-tax group that reviles her. Heimlich even helped to emcee a COAST event earlier this year where Schmidt's head was symbolically chopped off a cake.