Congressional Races Hold Few Surprises

Republicans regain, retain seats in Hamilton County districts

If the 2010 Congressional races in Hamilton County were remarkable for anything, it was their adherence to what many saw as all-but-inevitable results. In the 1st and 2nd districts, the favorites locked in victory — and concessions from their competitors — before midnight Tuesday.

The 2nd District race concluded first. Incumbent Republican Jean Schmidt earned 59 percent of the vote to retain her seat over first-time challenger, Democrat Surya Yalamanchili. Yalamanchili, a former competitor on the reality TV show The Apprentice, conceded the race shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday. In his concession speech, he pointed out that his is the only campaign to have not taken money from a registered political action committee (PAC).

"You don't need to get millions of dollars to run a competitive campaign," he said. "Things didn't work out as we would have liked, but the amount of attention and help I received, that's the lesson I'm taking with me."

In a comment that suggested he knew the odds he was facing, Yalamanchili thanked his supporters with a quote from the TV drama, The West Wing.

"I can't remember it exactly, but ... when you're in a hole, your friend is the one who jumps in with you to try and figure it out," he said. "You guys jumped in the hole with me, you were there with me because you said you wanted to be standing beside me. I really appreciate that, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that."

Schmidt returns to Congress for her third term.

In what many anticipated would be Hamilton County's congressional race to watch, Republican contender Steve Chabot reclaimed the 1st District seat he lost in 2008 to Democrat Steve Driehaus.

Back then, Driehaus knocked Chabot from a seat he'd held since 1994, part of the sweep that gave Democrats control of both House and Senate. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) pulled more than a half-million dollars' worth of TV ads from Ohio in October, a move Driehaus called "walking away" from his campaign. Polls throughout 2010 showed Driehaus consistently trailing Chabot by 10 or more percentage points.

Driehaus stayed in close contention throughout the ballot count Tuesday, often within a few percentage points of his rival. The final vote was 52-47 percent in favor of Chabot.

Campaign spokesman Tim Mulvey attributed the boost over pollsters' predictions to a significant last-minute uptick in Democratic enthusiasm.

"They surged some over the weekend, and early voting was remarkable," he said as Driehaus supporters watched the ballot count on televisions at downtown eatery Taquiera Mercado. The group cheered periodically as Driehaus' numbers appeared and celebrated as his sister, Democrat Denise Driehaus, retained her state representative seat in Ohio's 31st District.

But shortly before 11 p.m., and with his competitor leading by five percentage points, Driehaus conceded to Chabot.

After the election results are posted, Steve Driehaus (center) greets State Sen. Eric Kearney, one of the few Cincinnati area Democrats who won reelection Nov. 2. (Photo by Sean Hughes)

Appearing before supporters at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown (pictured at top), Chabot admitted that he wasn't certain he'd run again after Driehaus beat him in 2008.

"It was really her encouragement that made me do it," he said, referring to Donna, his wife.

Chabot thanked his supporters and gave an overt nod to Tea Party voters who helped push him past Driehaus.

"I know our Tea Party friends will be holding us accountable. This is going to be a November to remember," he said, paraphrasing a Tea Party bumper sticker he said he placed on his personal vehicle.

Along with promising to cut spending and declaring "we've got to stop ObamaCare," Chabot acknowledged voters' discontent with the Washington status quo.

"I'm a Republican and I don't trust the Democrats up there, but I don't trust the Republicans, either," he said. "The American people are giving us a second chance, but they're not going to give us a third, so we've got to get this right."

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In other local Congressional news, Republican John Boehner was easily reelected in the 8th District, beating Justin Coussoule 66-30 percent. With the GOP takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, Boehner likely will become the next Speaker of the House.

As usual, Ohio served as the nation's political bellwether Tuesday, with Republicans beating five Democratic Congressional incumbents: Driehaus in the 1st District, Charlie Wilson in the 6th District, Mary Jo Kilroy in the 15th District, John Boccieri in the 16th District and Zack Space in the 18th District. Republicans now hold 13 of the state's 18 Congressional seats.

Geoff Davis was easily reelected in Kentucky's 4th Congressional District, beating John Waltz 69-31 percent.

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