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GOP's Davidson Wins 8th Congressional District Seat

Warren Davidson
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Warren Davidson

Businessman and former soldier Warren Davidson, a Miami County Republican, has vaulted from political obscurity  last year to a seat in the U.S. House this year. 

With all 100 percent of the 8th Congressional District's 558 precincts reporting, Davidson held a massive lead over his two opponents, showing how strong a Republican district the 8th really is. 

Davidson, from Troy in Miami County, had 77 percent to 21 percent for Democrat Corey Foister of West Chester. A third candidate, James J. Condit Jr., who has been disavowed by the Green Party had two percent support.

Davidson will serve out the remainder of Boehner's term, which ends on January 3, 2017.  He and Foister will run against each other in November for a full two-year term.

It will be the first time in more than a quarter of a century that this part of western and southwest Ohio has had a U.S. House member other than former House Speaker John Boehner, who held the seat for nearly 25 years.

Boehner quit Congress last October, setting up Tuesday's special congressional election in the six-county 8th Congressional District, which stretches from Butler County in the south to Mercer County in the north.

Turnout in Tuesday's election was abysmally low - about 6 percent of the district's 471,273 voters cast ballots. Turnout was lowest in Butler County at 4.87 percent and highest in Miami County - Davidson's home county - at 8.1 percent. 

Six months ago, barely anyone outside Miami County had ever heard of Davidson, a 46-year-old business owner in Troy, the county seat; and he was entering a contest with 14 other Republican candidates.

Tuesday night, the former Army Ranger put out a statement thanking the voters for the win and saying he views "serving in Congress as a return to active duty." 

"I love this country with a soldier's passion and I will work in that same spirit to represent the entire district with the same honor, integrity and work ethic as I did when I was in the Army,'' Davidson said. "The real work starts now." 

Before entering the GOP special primary field last December, Davidson's only brush with politics was a two-year stint as a Concord Township trustee in Miami County.

But the 46-year-old Davidson did have the right resume for a year in which Republican primary voters seemed to be looking for someone who, unlike Boehner, was not a professional politician.

A graduate of West Point, Davidson served 12 years of active duty in the military, part of the time spent as an Army Ranger. He is a married with a wife and two children.

It was not long before U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of the leaders of the rebellion that convinced Boehner to leave Congress, latched on to Davidson as his candidate; and Jordan brought along substantial support from major national conservative organizations such as the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. The Senate Conservatives Fund and Citizens for Community Values also got  on board.

But most importantly for Davidson, he was not perceived as a professional politician. That was in stark contrast to his two principal opponents in the GOP primary, State Rep. Tim Derickson of Hanover Township and State Sen. Bill Beagle of Tipp City.

Davidson won the 15-candidate primary with 33 percent of the vote.

In a low-turnout election like Tuesday, Davidson had a natural advantage as the GOP candidate in a heavily Republican district. It is a district where Boehner routinely won with over 60 percent of the vote, and sometimes over 70 percent. In fact, in 2012, the Democrats did not even bother to run a candidate against him.

Davidson's Democratic opponent, Foister, is only one year over the minimum age for a member of the U.S. House – he is 26 years old. The Northern Kentucky University graduate is a political activist and free-lance writer may well pursue a career in politics.

The third candidate on the ballot, Condit, doesn’t live in the district (it's not required of U.S. House candidates) and is not a member of the Green Party, even though he ran on the Green Party's space on the ballot.

Ohio Green Party officials renounced Condit, a long-time conspiracy theorist on the fringes of southern Ohio politics. Condit voted in the Republican primary in Hamilton County in March; and is thus disqualified from running in the fall for the 8th District seat.

So, in November, it will be Davidson and Foister facing off for a full two-year term in the House.

That election, with the presidency at stake, will have a very high turnout – unlike Tuesday's special congressional election, where the turnout was abysmally low.

Monday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted released numbers showing that 3,576 people in the six-county district had cast absentee ballots, both by mail and in person at the boards of elections.

It was an extraordinarily low number for a 28-day early voting period.

Aside from several public candidate forums and the candidates themselves traveling around the geographically large district, there was little evidence of a campaign in the run-up to Tuesday's special election.

It was very unlike the Republican special primary election in March, when Davidson emerged as the winner in a mammoth field of 15 GOP candidates.

In that election, Davidson raised slightly over $500,000 on his own; and another $1.1 million in outside money was spent on his behalf – most of it from the national conservative group, the Club for Growth, which had helped fuel the rebellion among House GOP member that forced Boehner out of office.

Spending on this general election race in a heavily-Republican district was nearly non-existent.

Even though Boehner's resignation was effective last fall on October 30, Ohio Gov. John Kasich ordered a special election and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted set a special primary date to coincide with Ohio's presidential primary on March 15.

The turnout  in that March primary was much higher than in Tuesday's special election – 41 percent in Butler County. But that election had both Democratic and Republican presidential contests and numerous contested races for local and state legislative offices.

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