COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The race to replace U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor comes down to two political names familiar to voters in a heavily Republican northwest Ohio congressional district.
Republican State Rep. Bob Latta wants to be the second Latta to represent the 5th Congressional District. His father, Delbert, held the seat from 1959-1989 and helped cement Republican dominance in the district since the 1930s.
Democrat Robin Weirauch's name has appeared on the ballot before in the district and may be the best hope for her nationally buoyant but locally marginalized party. In the 2006 general election against Gillmor, she received more votes 43 percent than any other Democrat in the district's history. On Tuesday, she cruised to a 72 percent to 28 percent victory over challenger George Mays in the Democratic primary.
One man has filed to run a write-in campaign for the seat. John F. Green, of 620 Webster St. in Napoleon, filed paperwork to run as a write-in. No independents filed the necessary number of signatures to be included on the ballot.
Weirauch hopes a bruising primary battle between Latta and state Sen. Steve Buehrer will help her chances of turning conventional wisdom on its head in the general election on Dec. 11. Latta and Buehrer, who received roughly 44 percent and 40 percent, respectively, took shots at one another throughout their campaign, attempting to out-do one another's conservative credentials.
The 5th District seat is open because U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor died in September from an apparent fall down the stairs in his Washington apartment.
Republicans are retiring in three other congressional districts in Ohio, raising Democratic hopes in a tough national environment for Republicans. The GOP controls the state's congressional delegation 10-7.
Weirauch is making her third bid in the conservative district.
She said she would focus her campaign on job losses in the region.
"We're very optimistic, especially after the 2006 election, that voters are not only demanding change but making it happen themselves," Weirauch said.
Latta said he got one hour and 15 minutes of sleep while waiting for returns that were delayed until early Wednesday morning in Putnam County because of glitches in electronic voting machines.
"I can't say enough for the voters in the Republican primary that had the trust and confidence in me to allow me to go forward in the special general election now," Latta told Toledo station WTVG-TV.
A message seeking comment was left Wednesday morning with Buehrer's campaign.
It was the second time Latta sought to represent the district. He lost in a 1988 GOP primary to Gillmor by 27 votes.
Buehrer and Latta both are fiscal and social conservatives who tried during the campaign to paint the other as not being a true conservative.
They filed complaints against each other, leading the Ohio Elections Commission to rule that both made false statements in their campaign ads, which mostly were negative attacks.
Each pointed out the other's vote for a gas tax increase. And both noted that the other took campaign money from Tom Noe, the imprisoned rare-coin dealer and GOP fundraiser at the center of the state Bureau of Workers' Compensation investment scandal that helped Democrats take back the governor's office last year.
Some party leaders worried the bitter campaign would turn off voters.