It is what it says it is.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Early Buzz

Well, there is not a whole lot of publicity on this race so far, which is slightly surprising, particularly on the D side. However, after contacting our intrepid sources throughout the district, a few things are becoming clear.

1. Washington had a FAR different impression of the race than the powerbrokers in district.

After word started to circulate that former Rep. Tom Sawyer may be interested in the 13th district race, the DC intellegensia and Dem "establishment" spent December attempting to anoint a (non-Sawyer) frontrunner in this race. Sawyer, whose vote for NAFTA ultimately cost him a seat in Congress when redistricted into the 17th in the 2002 election, is viewed by many in DC as damaged goods, especially in a district like the 13th, where labor plays such a vital role in Dem politics.

They attempted to ordain former state Rep. Betty Sutton as the leading candidate. DCCC released statements pumping her up, word came from EMILY's List that they were keeping an eye on her and other buzz began to build. Not a bad way to start.

The only problem is, according to our sources, Sutton and some of her DC backers have badly overplayed their hand. Apparently, Ms. Sutton and some others have claimed labor endorsements for her and support that Ms. Sutton did not possess. When interested individuals and organizations called the actual union local leaders to ask about her, the unions were dumbfounded. Many of the leaders had never spoken to Betty Sutton, and no decision had been made on the endorsements. Needless to say, this has raised hackles. We have been told that this series of events directly led to the UAW's decision to attempt to draft Capri Cafaro into the race.
Sutton is not without labor support; at least one Firefighters' local has come out in support of her, and some other groups, such as the teachers' and nurses', are widely expected to follow. However, many of the biggest unions have been upset by her presumption of support, and are looking elsewhere.

Tom Sawyer, besides the lack of Union support, does not appear to be having much success in finding any other support. Should he run, he would be relying on name ID alone to push him to the finish line, not a strong strategy when facing one or more candidates who may spend a lot of money. As of writing, he has not filed a declaration of candidacy, which means he hasn't spent much money so far. Especially with Sutton's presumed support from teachers, as Pho's Akron Pages notes, Sawyer's one potentially friendly labor organization may be otherwise engaged. There is a certain sadness to the entire Sawyer episode; he will be forever defined and given a Scarlet Free Trade Letter for a few votes. But alas, when you underestimate the political power of unions in Northeast Ohio, good rarely comes out of it.

Capri Cafaro, coming off of the UAW draft/endorsement , is now widely expected to run. although the word from people close to her continues to be that a decision has not been made. While UAW support for Cafaro would not have been surprising had she been a declared candidate, the fact that it came so early, and after the Betty Sutton episode detailed above, speaks volumes. Should she enter the race, expect things to get very expensive very early, another very bad sign for Sawyer, and quite probably Sutton too. While carpet-bagger accusations are sure to fly at Cafaro (she was the candidate in Ohio 14 last cycle), she is very lucky in that neither Sawyer nor Sutton live in the 13th district, dampening the potential for those attacks.

John Wolfe is the only Dem candidate with a declaration of candidacy filed and a campaign website. Otherwise, he's gaining no real traction, nor should he be expected to. The big guns will be arriving shortly, and a 79 year old attorney with zero-name ID and little resources cannot be expected to do much. Sad, he seems like a good guy from his website, and at least he has a website (note to other candidates: GET A WEBSITE!). But eventually, the reality of politics catches up to us all.

2. The GOP is writing the seat off.

Probably not a bad move for them, resourcewise; it is a Dem majority district in a state where the GOP is not exactly thought of fondly. The GOP governor's approval ratings are somewhere around Bin Laden's. The most prominent U.S. Rep from Ohio is "representative #1" in the Abramoff scandal. Not where I'd make my stand, to be blunt.

The name that has been bandied about is Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin. However, he has been quoted in the ABJ as saying he doesn't want to be "cannon fodder." And right now, that is all any Republican short of Lincoln would be in this race.

Joe Ortega has filed for the race, and as of his last available filing, raised almost $50,000, all but $100 of which coming from loans and contributions by... Joe Ortega. He also has a campaign website and as much chance of winning in the General as Tom Tancredo has of winning the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

If the GOP decided to seriously contest the 13th, they would be looking at spending millions to hold the Democrat candidate to below 60% of the vote. The only motivation would be to weaken whoever the Dem nominee is so that come 2012 redistricting, that member would likely be on the chopping block.

3. Anything could happen (almost).

Pretty self-explanatory. We will not hazard any predictions yet, only to say expect this race to be fierce on the D side, probably expensive, and likely decided by union support. Lots of things need to shake out in order to make even a semi-educated guess. Should be fun though.

4. Let us know what's up.

While we have our sources, we are always looking for information, contacts, etc. So, campaigns, operatives, junkies, rumormongers, press, interested parties, uninterested parties, anyone, let us know what you think, what we are missing. Campaigns, keep us in the loop... we want to report as much as we can on this race as fairly as possible, and your cooperation will assist that.

The Ohio 13 blog editors

we can be reached at ohio13 at gmail dot com


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