The (Relative) Peace of OH-8

Election years are obnoxious times, with obnoxious people doing obnoxious things in order to get elected, but this year, at least, it’s a by-election year, which means that here in the 8th Congressional District of Ohio, things are pretty quiet. This is because after 1990, the first year he was elected, OH-8 Congressional Representative John Boehner consistently wins elections by taking two votes out of three. Prior to Boehner taking office, the district had already been in GOP hands since 1938; a Democrat hasn’t come within 10,000 votes of a GOP candidate since 1974, not even when Boehner’s immediate predecessor, Buz Lukens, had to resign because he was caught paying a 16-year-old girl for sex. This is as safe a district as it gets, and unless Boehner gets caught fondling a shaved badger named “Tito” on the floor of the House by C-SPAN’s cameras, the likelihood of him losing an election in OH-8 is roughly the same as the likelihood of me spontaneously changing form into a ginormous Taco Bell 7-layer burrito. As delicious as that possibility may be, it’s just not going to happen.

And so, things are fairly mellow here. There is a Democratic challenger for the seat, a nice young fellow named Justin Coussoule, and I like his platform just fine and will likely be voting for him this November. He has no chance. I have yet to see a single voter sign for him; I’ve not received a single mailing from him that I can remember. I don’t believe the Democrats are exactly pouring money into the district to boost his campaign. On the same token, while I have seen a few John Boehner signs, it’s been only a few, and the signs are exactly the same signs, in color and typography, that I’ve seen since 2002, which is the first election year I was here for. I suspect that people here might just take the signs they got once and pack them away for two years, plop them in the yard in mid-September and then put them back in storage on the first Wednesday in November. That’s Midwestern thriftiness for you.

Theoretically, I think it would be better if OH-8 were in contention every two years, and there was a robust debate between candidates, and I was flooded with mailings detailing every position and bone of contention between the candidates. Yay, participatory democracy. But as a practical matter, and entirely selfishly, I have to say I really don’t mind the quiet. 2012 promises to be an especially obnoxious election year already, and 2010 is bad enough everywhere else. I’ll take my mellow Midwestern island known as OH-8 for what it is.

Update, 4:45pm: Democratic candidate for OH-8 Representative Justin Coussoule pops into the comment thread to disagree with my assessment of his chances. That’s how local politics gets done, 21st Century style.

70 thoughts on “The (Relative) Peace of OH-8

  1. That’s cool. Maybe if this whole tea-party thing works out, next time you’ll have a shiny new tea-party candidate asphyxiating (politically, of course) Boehner from the right and… won’t that be fun? In my head it looks like an episode of Tom & Jerry, but with more gaffs.

    Isn’t it awful when enjoying life gets in the way of worrying about politics?

  2. ben:

    I’m not sure a Tea Partyish candidate would make much headway here. One, people here are conservative but they don’t appear to be notably angry. Two, it would make no sense to trade in the person who is either the House Minority Leader (as he is now) or the Speaker of the House (which he may be).

  3. Our Congressional district was designed to be a guaranteed Republican winner (no neutral committees of retired judges here in New York, no sir, it’s the party in power that determines the district lines). It’s no longer a sure bet, thanks to increasing numbers of more liberal downstaters moving north (and some really poor personal decisions by the Republican incumbent a few years back). Though that’s worked well for me for the last couple of years, I do think it would be better to have competitive districts wherever possible.

    Still, if one party’s going to be drawing the lines I’d rather it were the Democrats than the Republicans. So while It may be The Economy Stupid, and I like to remind people that in every election It’s The Judiciary, Stupid, now that the 2010 census has been completed It’s also Redistricting, Stupid. Try not to vote your anger and frustration (or not vote at all); vote your long-term interests.

  4. Enjoy your peace! Right next door in OH-15 has been a national electoral spectacle for at least 12 years now. When my wife and I go to vote, it’s normal for us to encounter news crews and ‘election monitors’ on the way in and people being ‘challenged’.

    But hey, at least we have nice new Diebolds :/

  5. Count yourself lucky; I’m in a theoretically Democratic district that votes in either Blue Dog Democratic or lusts after wild-eyed, wacky, Tea-Party-wannabes. My next door neighbor put up signs for a guy who wants our Republican Senate to elect our U.S. Senators (wow, who’d a thunk it?) and a guy for Governor who looks like an anorexic Mr. Clean with money out the wazoo who thinks he running against the President. Safe seats may have something to say for them.

  6. The funny thing was after the last round of district changes in 2001 the Republicans tried to gerrymander the lone Democratic Congressman in Kansas by splitting the college town that gave him much of his base in half. The end result was for the Democrats to gain a second seat, although both his seat and the new district has become somewhat more competitive, I don’t think that was the result they were going for though.

  7. It is totally crazy that politicians are allowed to the the boundaries of congressional districts. Why not have a non-partisan electoral board make those decisions?

  8. I’ve heard it said that it’s (unfortunate, ridiculous, obscene, pick your adjective) that Congress is controlled by the most senior members, since that means it’s also controlled by the members from the safest districts, with the least chance of being ousted. The theory being that if the members from hotly-contested districts were in charge, Congress would be a more vibrant place, more directly tackling the issues of the day rather than pussyfooting around them.

    (I don’t necessarily buy this theory, although I think strict seniority is a stupid way to run an electoral institution, and I’m in general in favor of shaking things up.)

    (What I really wish is that we could get rid of all the requirements for supermajority votes to get things done – let the party in charge be in charge, whichever one it is. But I digress.)

  9. Somehow, despite living in an overwhelmingly democratic state, the politicians are still obnoxious and everywhere.

    I’m already sick to death of political ads. Granted the fact that I work at a TV station probably doesn’t help since we tend to get slightly over-exposed to ads in general. And the complete whack-a-do candidates have somehow managed to get press coverage (national even), which also doesn’t help the situation.

    Really looking forward to the second week of November.

  10. There have been some rumblings that John of Orange might not get the speaker position with all of the TP candidates having a say…

  11. I had assumed that John Boehner was from Florida based on his lovely tan. Now, I have seen pictures of Re Boehner, and I have seen pictures of our lovely host, and I am forced to wonder how much of a tan is Sclazi missing by not mowing his lawn? Or is the sun different out on the golf courses of Ohio? (Since Rep Boehner states that his tan is from golfing and mowing his lawn.)

    Even out here in the land of flaming liberals the only thing that makes it possible to watch TV during election season is TiVo.

  12. John:
    “it would make no sense to trade in the person who is either the House Minority Leader (as he is now) or the Speaker of the House (which he may be).”

    And this is true.
    I just can’t shake this feeling that folks in Delaware were probably saying something quite similar about Mike Castle.
    As Charlie Stross put it over on his blog, Deep Crazy. We’re in it.

  13. Arizona CD-6 is much the same. It’s very republican, and Jeff Flake is very respected. If a Democrat is even bothering to run I don’t even know his or her name.

    On the other hand. 80% of the state population is in the Phoenix Metro area, so almost every district has this big tenticle that reaches down into the city. Thank you SCOTUS for that. *grumble*.

    As a result, we get a LOT of radio and TV adds for folks in other districts, since radio waves do not honor congressional district boundaries.

  14. Hi, John. A law school classmate and fan of yours directed me to your blog post. I’m sorry to hear that you think that I don’t have a chance and haven’t had a presence in the district. I guess you don’t get out much.

    We’ve raised well into the six figures (about 10 times more than any Dem. ever against Boehner), which we have been using to run the most competitive campaign Boehner has ever seen. I’ve been all over the district for the last eight months meeting voters and listening to their concerns, and have a dedicated network of field volunteers knocking doors, making call and helping spread the word.

    Cable TV ads began months ago, and will continue, and radio and network TV ads begin today. We have had a couple of billboards on I-75 that received national press (as have some of our ads) and I’ve been interviewed on national TV (3 times), national radio and numerous on-line media outlets. The local papers have been covering our campaign (though we love to get more local press) and run dozens of supportive letters to the editor.

    Boehner usually wins 2/3 of the vote, but that’s because he’s never faced real competition since he defeated convicted child molester, Buzz Lukins, in 1990. After 20 years of Boehner’s misrepresentation, voters are ready for a change. I hear it everyday, and from as many Independents and Republicans as from Democrats. And the district is 55% Independent. The other 45% is evenly split between Dems and Reps. Did you know that Boehner had two primary challengers (self-described moderates) who won 16% of the Republican vote in a closed primary?

    And yard signs don’t win elections, voters do. Like you said, the same people drag the same ‘Boehner’ yard signs out year after year on main drags around the district. I wouldn’t read too much into yard sign sightings (but, like you, I’ve noticed far fewer ‘Boehner’ signs this year than before previous elections…hmmm…).

    If you want change in OH-8 (or at least a competitive election to follow), it starts with you. Help us spread the word. Check us out at http://www.BeatBoehner.com. Join the effort for better government. For the government we deserve. C’mon…at least put up one of our yard signs. We’ll deliver it right to you.

  15. I’m from the Chicago area… so that means my politicians come in one flavor: Democrat and Corrupt.

    Illinois – The Best Politicians Money Can Buy

  16. I have to wonder just how peaceful it’s going to be when they fight to figure out how to redistrict things in Ohio when you lose two congressional seats.

    You may be one of the few people who’s moved in to the state rather than out of it.

  17. Justin Coussoule:

    “I’m sorry to hear that you think that I don’t have a chance and haven’t had a presence in the district. I guess you don’t get out much.”

    Hey, I just got back from Australia. I get around, man.

    I’m sorry I think you don’t have a chance, too, Justin. I would be delighted for you to prove me wrong. And as noted, you’ll be getting my vote in any event.

    As for the yard sign: Well, it’s a pretty big yard. But I’ll tell you what, Justin. You show up with it in hand, and I’ll let you put it up in the yard anywhere you like.

  18. I live in Troy Oh, just down the cornfield, and I’ve seen several Coussoule yard signs in the area. A friend just cued me into the “BeatBoehner” web site. I’ve been unhappy with Boehner ever since he got elected ages ago. (Was it J. Danford Quayle who mixed up Buzz Luken and Buzz Aldrin?) I’m going to the Coussoule website and volunteer…I had a blast working for Obama in 2008. Thanks for the heads up…(but it is nice not to be bombarded with political robocalls…)

  19. John, just thank your lucky Scalzorcs that you don’t have Michelle Bachmann on your ballet. That wingnut is in my district, and the idiots [who I shudder to think are my neighbors] keep voting her into office.

    Dear gods, make it stop…

  20. OK, that’s inspired me to donate.

    I live in Portland, OR, specifically on the East Side of the river, so I’m represented by Earl Blumenauer (D, OR-03), a man so Blue he doesn’t own a car — he bikes everywhere — and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), also pretty Blue (though Wyden is a bit conservative for a Pac-Nor-Wester). So while I’ve made perfunctory donations to my Local Horse Races, I’m always ready to chip in for folk who are in challenging races. Even if they don’t win, no one should ever run unopposed for a seat.

    Good on the folk for putting themselves in the line of fire.

  21. I’m always amazed that while the Republicans have realized that electing leadership from safe districts and states (Boehner and OH-8, McConnell and KY) means that their leadership can move further to the right, the Democrats seem insistent in most cases (Tom Daschle, Harry Reid) to select their leadership from marginal locations which endanger them as soon as they try to enact a left agenda.

  22. Holy crap, John, do you have to mow that entire yard? And I thought Boehner was from Florida, I mean with the tan and all I just assumed…

  23. oceanblue1 @29: that’s what riding mowers are for.

    Jerome @26: can you please explain your gubernatorial race for me. I mean, dude, WTF.

  24. mythag @30 – my sister-in-law moved to Portland a couple years ago (after a long stint in NJ) and her reaction to the OR gubernatorial race is WTF. And she used to follow NJ politics closely so it’s not like it’s new to her! :-D

  25. I’m Justin’s aforementioned law school buddy. I feel like getting a politician to hand deliver a yard sign warrants an exception to your rules about asking for a signed copy, don’t you?

  26. Mikeqqq:

    NOW THE HIDDEN AGENDA COMES FORTH.

    If he shows up, I’ll give him a signed copy of a book. Whether he then sends it to you is something you’ll have to argue with him about.

  27. Man, I need to move to Ohio. I’m in maryland sitting on .19 acres. And this is the biggest chunk of land I could afford!

  28. I’ve seen Justin speak a couple times on tv and he’s a very good looking candidate. To steal a line from Hendrix, vote him one time for me. Even if the bar weren’t so low he would still be a very good looking candidate.

  29. mythago @30: What can I say? Two guys, one with experience as a politician, and one with experience as a mediocre center, both with some no-no money issues in their past. It’s the Governor’s race, and here in Oregon nobody really cares who’s Governor, since the power is mostly in the legislature.

  30. mondogarage: At least, if he shows up at your door, if he doesn’t want a signed copy of a book, maybe you can tape a piece of bacon to him.

    Okay, did not laugh out loud, I cackled out loud. Well done, sir or ma’am; it is not often that I cackle.

  31. I don’t recall when it was, but there was exactly 1 time in the 12 years I’ve been living in the 8th that I said to myself “Hmmm… that kinda makes sense” when Boehner opened his mouth.

    Every other time I have had, shall we say, less pleasant reactions.

    In some ways, it makes me want to move somewhere where the neighborhood voting history doesn’t embarrass me. On the other hand, that would only make his numbers better.

    Get off my (Congressional) lawn!

  32. John, I envy your peaceful district! Though I’m a loyal democrat, Alan Grayson’s mudslinging TV ads are enough to make me consider voting against him.

    (maybe I’ll just write in Justin Coussoule)

  33. “John Boehner signs… are exactly the same signs, in color and typography, that I’ve seen since 2002 … . I suspect that people here might just take the signs they got once and pack them away for two years”

    Not sure how many readers you share with Jennifer Crusie, but this reminds me enjoyably of both a theme and a final twist in Welcome to Temptation:

    “Tucker for Mayor: More of the Same”

    (explanation in paragraph 3 here)

  34. Justin Coussouleon @ 16:

    “After 20 years of Boehner’s misrepresentation, voters are ready for a change.”

    I’d be more impressed with a politician that could refrain from the ad hominem attack long enough to complete one comment, especially on a blog that overtly encourages substantive argument and eschews political claptrap. And, it seems like an odd choice to needlessly insult a constituent (“I guess you don’t get out much.”) that maintains a huge following and already told all the internets that he is voting for you. You should be able to foresee that those that read this blog are fans of Scalzi. Why put a negative taint on an opportunity to impress thousands of thoughtful readers. This may be why so many Americans are exhausted by most all politicians.

  35. @Lubert (#18) – As a fellow Chicagoan, I only *wish* we had the best politicians money can buy. Unfortunately, they seem to all be a bunch of defective returns bought on clearance with an 80% markdown. They’re generally incompetent, and when one gets caught in the act I’m always astonished at just how cheaply they’ve sold themselves.

  36. Justin Coussouleon @ 16: Okay, so I’m just down the road in OH-2. Please, please tell me how to get rid of Mean Jean.

  37. Even though we no longer live in Ohio, when I read aloud the comment about taping bacon to Justin Coussoule my wife exclaimed, “Heck, if Scalzi posts a picture of him taping bacon to the candidate, *I’ll* contribute to the campaign!”

    Sounds like a potential fund-raising opportunity.

  38. Word, crayonbaby! I’m now considering writing in Justin Coussouleon, he’d better than our ‘official’ choices! Meg Whitman or Jerry Brown????

  39. John, I’ll gladly deliver a yard sign to you. They come in two flavors: your standard yard sign and 4′ x 8′ road sign. If you’ve got a big yard, and are on a major road, then a 4′ x 8′ would sure look sweet!

    We’re going to be out delivering signs (both sizes) on Monday. How does that sound? I’d come sooner, but am I correct that you’re in Darke County? That’s a solid hour and half from us in Butler County, so I’d like to incorporate the delivery into a planned trip.

    And thank you for your support and your vote. I know how important each person’s support is, after all, we get to 50.1% one person at a time. I confess that I don’t know the significance, but you can tape bacon to me — you can tape a ham hock to me — as long as you remember me in November!

    I share some of your commenters dislike for career politicians. Thank goodness I’m not one. I haven’t run for ‘office’ since junior and senior high school class president. And I’m 2-0 and I don’t want to spoil my record!

    But we have a failed public servant in OH-8 who has long forgotten his constituents. And like we all learned in grade school, ‘a government of, by and for the people’ doesn’t just happen. We have to work for it. We have to earn it. Sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zones and fight for it. That’s what we’re doing in this campaign. Cynicism is easy. Fighting for better representation; better government; a better future for our kids, is hard. But those are really the only fights worth fighting.

    Please let me know on the sign. And thank you again for your support!

  40. Justin:

    We’re not on a main road, so a 4×8 sign might be a little much and also not strategically useful, but bring along a couple of the smaller ones and we’ll space them out in the yard. My address is here (scroll down a bit). I should be home most of the day, but dropping by in the afternoon would be better.

    Re: the bacon taping: It relates to this. Believe it or not, for about a day, it was about the most popular thing on the Internet. Be that as it may, I would advise against the bacon taping for you. It’s okay for the cat not to have dignity; you, probably not so much. My readers will howl at the missed opportunity, but they will just have to suffer.

    See you Monday.

  41. If politics (and marketing) includes the delicate art of balancing and somehow accommodating the conflicting, yet legitimate, interests of various groups, then a compromise may be in order. That is, perhaps Scalzi will tape bacon to the sign. That is certainly more dignified than taping a cat to the sign.

  42. Wouldn’t John taping bacon to the sign be just the ultimate endorsement of a candidate? Phrases like “He brings home the bacon!” and “Pork for the 8th!” just leap to mind!

  43. John @33 – a lawyer with a hidden agenda. I DID NOT SEE THAT TWIST COMING!!!!!!

    I’m thinking that a YouTube of taping bacon to the candidate would probably bring in a lot of interest on the Internets, mind you.

  44. Dear Mr. Coussoule (w/ apologies to Scalzi for hijacking his blog),

    I’m not in your district, but I like you. Way to engage! I’m unemployed at the moment, but I can scrimp a bit to donate $25, so I visited your site.

    Good luck with your race!

  45. You know what? I feel your pain, albeit from the opposite end of the spectrum. I live in CO-1, currently represented by Diana DeGette, and you might as well name her seat “The Pat Schroeder Memorial Congressional Seat,” it’s so solidly held by the Donks. Okay, there may be a slight difference; the NRCC has put her opponent in the upcoming election, physician Mike Fallon, “On the Radar.” Whether this means anything yet or not, I don’t know. It would probably take a minor miracle or six for Fallon to win.

  46. John @54:

    Be that as it may, I would advise against the bacon taping for you. It’s okay for the cat not to have dignity; you, probably not so much.

    John, this guy is running for Congress. What the hell does dignity have to do with anything?!

  47. For what it’s worth, candidates pick up yard signs after the election and do indeed hold onto them until the next election, when the signs are trotted out again. Signs are designed without dates and sometimes, without even the office that is being campaigned for, for reusability purposes. It’s thrifty! It’s environmental! It’s one of the numerous advantages that incumbents have over challengers – already having a garage full of yard signs.

  48. John,

    Dude, I can’t believe you didn’t go for the ROAD SIGN.

    Sure, you have to drive quite a ways on Google Street view to find another car….

    http://bit.ly/cacatm

    But still, just to promote escalation, I’m sending this post to JB’s office, so they can come bring their own road sign.

    last note: my wife’s family are in Middletown, they’ve never been political, and all of a sudden they are driving to Tea Party protests. Something is afoot – even in the 8th.

  49. As a former resident of OH 5, I understand the frustrations of the residents of OH 8 with Mr. Tan. Good luck in today’s election, and I hope Boehner gets a huge shock sitting in DC tonight. GO BUCS! Make a change in OH 8. When I just read that Boehner isn’t even in his district today, I had to search to see what was happening back there and ran across this site. Hope the sign was delivered and drew some attention, hehe, bacon or no bacon.

  50. BTW, if you are really upset with our present election/campaign finance system. go to http://www.faircampaignreform.us and join the Popular Amendment movement to successfully petition for two constitutional amendments: election/campaign finance reform and term limits. Download the petitions, sign them, then begin circulating them. Start a local grassroots committee to collect petitions. And please post your activities on the new forum section so that others know what is going on in your community. I just added the forum link this past weekend at the request of several site visitors.

  51. I’m sorry your results weren’t better last night in OH 8, but I hope that Justin will not give up but be back in the race in two years to get rid of Mr. Orange Tan for good from the House. I hope all of you who supported him this year will help him accomplish his mission next election should he decide to run again.

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