Ohio March 17 Primaries: 1st Congressional District

Two Democrats are competing for the chance to take on Republican congressional veteran U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot in a district that includes the western portion of Hamilton County and all of Warren County.

Nikki Foster (left) and Kate Schroder - Provided images
Provided images
Nikki Foster (left) and Kate Schroder

Two Democrats are competing for the chance to take on Republican congressional veteran U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot in his district that includes the western portion of Hamilton County and all of Warren County.

Clifton healthcare executive and former Cincinnati Board of Health member Kate Schroder has scored the Hamilton County Democratic Party's endorsement in that race, as well as endorsements from Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, State Rep. Brigid Kelly, former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and other local elected officials.

But her opponent, Mason Air Force veteran Nikki Foster, has some strengths of her own. Foster has touted her connection to Warren County — where Democrats have had a hard time making inroads — as a big plus for her campaign. She lost a race to become the area's state representative in 2018 but racked up eight more points in that contest than the previous Democrat who ran there. 

Foster's campaign chair is former gubernatorial primary candidate and state representative Connie Pillich. She also netted endorsements from the group Organized Progressives Standing United, Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority Board member Kathy Wyenandt, Deerfield Township Board of Trustees member Kristin Malhotra and former president of the Democratic Women's Club of Southwest Ohio Sheridan Lijoi. 

Both candidates have made healthcare a key issue in their campaigns and say they support expanding public options like Medicaid without eliminating private insurance. Both also say they support expanding cost-free educational opportunities like two-year degrees and trade schools. 

Last year, Foster was an early voice calling for Congress to get moving on impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. 

"When there is evidence that the president committed crimes, we must begin impeachment proceedings to uncover the truth, because no one is above the law," Foster tweeted last July.

Just a week into the race, it was already the second time Foster's bid had drawn attention. The first came after the National Republican Congressional Committee, which raises funds for Republican candidates, called Foster a "socialist loser" in a statement. The epithet — an odd fit for the generally pro-military moderate Democrat — drew rebuke from some political watchers.

It isn't clear how well Foster's stance on impeachment will play in the divided district. 

Schroder took a more cautious approach to the impeachment question, last summer saying the House should keep investigating Trump but stopping short of calling for impeachment at the time.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives did end up bringing articles of impeachment against Trump, but the Senate voted not to convict the president late last year.

Toppling Chabot will be a challenge for either candidate. He has held his seat for 25 years, and minus election in 2008 when he was defeated by Democrat Steve Driehaus, he's never lost a campaign in the district. But he could be hobbled by questions around more than $100,000 missing from his campaign funds and revelations that the man listed as his campaign's treasurer — James Schwartz — says he had no role with the campaign. A federal investigation has been mounted into that missing money. Chabot's campaign says it has been the victim of a financial crime.

Despite the controversy, Chabot has filed for reelection. If the winner of the primary between Foster and Schroder doesn't prevail this time, taking Chabot's seat may get easier for Democrats after the 2020 Census, when the district will be redrawn.

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