Ohio US Senate seat race is all about the economy - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Ohio US Senate seat race is all about the economy

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The fight for Ohio's open U.S. Senate seat this fall pits a former state development director against a former federal budget and trade czar in a race all about the economy.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, the governor's one-time jobs guru, won his party's nomination for the seat Tuesday over Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner with about 55 percent of the vote. He now faces Republican Rob Portman, a former congressman and trade representative for former President George W. Bush, in the race to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, who's retiring.

In his victory speech, Fisher laid Ohio's abysmal economy at the feet of Bush administration policies.

"The governor and I can do all the right things, but if the federal government is giving tax breaks to businesses that ship jobs overseas, bailing out Wall Street while shortchanging small businesses who've never missed a payment in their life, then what happens is Ohio's workers, Ohio's families and Ohio's small businesses get left behind," Fisher said in Cleveland.

Portman said blame began with President Barack Obama's stimulus package, painting the GOP as the Washington outsiders.

"The fundamental question that Ohioans will face in November is whether we will continue to watch our economic prosperity slip away or whether we will take on the status quo in Washington and chart a new direction that includes stopping the fiscal irresponsibility and job-killing proposals coming out of Washington," he said in a statement.

Republicans are looking to capitalize on anti-Obama sentiment among voters to take back as many as five Ohio seats from the Democratic House majority. Freshman Democratic U.S. Reps. Steve Driehaus, Mary Jo Kilroy and John Boccieri are among the most vulnerable after controversial votes in support of cap-and-trade legislation, health care reform or both.

Driehaus' primary win Tuesday set up a rematch with the veteran Republican congressman he toppled in 2008, Steve Chabot. Chabot was a six-term incumbent of the Cincinnati-area 1st District before Driehaus' upset. The win was attributed largely to high black turnout for then-candidate Obama. Kilroy again faces Republican Steve Stivers, a former state senator whom she so narrowly defeated in 2008 that both attended Congress' freshman orientation awaiting recount results.

Democratic incumbent Zack Space, another GOP target, was uncertain of his fall opponent late on election night, as an eight-way GOP primary was still being decided. Boccieri, an Iraq war veteran, will face Republican businessman Jim Renacci in the fall. With the distracting and unwanted Senate primary behind them, Ohio Democrats sought to unite their party Tuesday night - rallying again behind Brunner and against Portman and the GOP gubernatorial nominee, former U.S. Rep. John Kasich.

Gov. Ted Strickland, also a former congressman, said, "While my opponent supported the failed Washington-Wall Street policies that got us into this economic mess and then cashed out on those policies at Lehman Brothers, I have worked every day as governor to invest in people who work for a living and ensure that Ohio emerges from this global economic recession stronger than ever."

Kasich snapped back: "The current (Strickland) administration had its chance but wasn't up to the task, and because of their policies the recession is hurting Ohioans more than it should and more than people in neighboring states."

Two dozen U.S. House primaries were held to decide fall contenders for the U.S. House, with a host of incumbents winning swift victories. Among those was Democrat Tim Ryan, who enters a three-way fall contest between Tuesday's GOP nominee, Jim Graham, and Jim Traficant, an ex-congressman recently released from prison.

Traficant, who plans to run as an independent, was elected to nine terms in Congress as a Democrat from Youngstown before serving time for racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. He left federal prison in September. Traficant has said he believes he can win in the Democratic stronghold despite the fact he has no money or campaign staff.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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