Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ohio 15:Pryce Opts Not to Seek Reelection

Amid reports that eight-term Republican Congresswoman Deborah Pryce (R) is “considering not seeking reelection,” several GOP insiders now tell the Rothenberg Political Report that Pryce has decided against running for another term and will announce her decision tomorrow at an 11am news conference.

Pryce’s district includes part of Franklin County (Columbus), but she also represents two less populated counties, Madison and Union.

Pryce, who trailed much of last cycle before slipping by challenger Mary Jo Kilroy (D) by 1,055 votes, chaired the Republican House Conference, making her the highest ranking GOP woman ever in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republican won her seat in 1992 in a three way race that included a social conservative who complained that Pryce was too moderate. She won her next six races easily, often with more than 65 percent of the vote.

The Ohio political environment was toxic for Republicans last year, and Democrats won the governorship, a Senate seat and a U.S. House seat. Three other Congressional Republicans, including Pryce, had close calls.

George W. Bush carried the district easily in 2000, 52 percent to 44 percent, but won it only narrowly, 50 percent to 49 percent, four years later.

Kilroy has already announced that she is running again, and Democrats seem to have rallied behind her. A Kilroy-Pryce rematch would have been brutal, undoubtedly an unappealing prospect for the Congresswoman. In addition, one Republican operative noted that Pryce has been extremely close to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and that Hastert’s decision not to seek another term could well have played a role in Pryce’s decision.

It is unclear whether Pryce’s decision not to run again – and the open seat – will change the dynamic in the Democratic race.

At least one GOP name is already starting to circulate as possibly interested in the open seat: Jim Petro. A former Ohio attorney general and former state auditor, Petro, 58, lost to Ken Blackwell in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary. Blackwell went on to be decimated in the general election, losing to Democrat Ted Strickland by 23 percentage points.

Democrats were prepared to make Pryce’s seat a top target again this year, but Republicans countered that if the Congresswoman was able to survive in 2006, she would be unlikely to lose in 2008.

The open seat confirms the obvious: Pryce’s Ohio Congressional district will again be a battleground in 2008, and Democrats have reason to feel even more upbeat about their prospects in an open seat.

The Rothenberg Political Report had rated the Ohio 15 race as “Lean Republican,” but it now moves to “Toss-Up” as an open seat.