COLUMBUS, Ohio – Republican scandals in Ohio dogged GOP statewide candidates while a Washington-based scandal helped Democrats grab a House seat.
Two races remained too close to call early Wednesday, with Republicans Rep. Deborah Pryce and Rep. Jean Schmidt ahead.
Dover law director Zack Space won a lopsided victory Tuesday over state Sen. Joy Padgett in eastern Ohio's 18th District, a safe Republican seat until six-term incumbent Bob Ney was linked to a congressional influence-peddling investigation. Ney decided late to drop his bid for re-election, and resigned the seat Friday in the aftermath of his guilty plea to corruption charges.
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"I will do everything within my power to earn your trust and your respect," Space told supporters at the VFW Hall in New Philadelphia.
Space had 62 percent, or 119,494 votes, to Padgett's 38 percent, of 74,475 votes, with 96 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial results.
Both national parties poured millions into the district, among four highly targeted Ohio races in the battle for control of the U.S. House. GOP Rep. Steve Chabot of Cincinnati won re-election.
Rep. John Boehner of West Chester easily won re-election but will lose his role as House majority leader in the new Democrat-led House.
Pryce, fourth-ranking Republican leader in the House, predicted she would hold her lead, more than 3,600 votes in unofficial returns, after all 15th District ballots were counted.
"All you political junkies who want to stay up late, stay tuned, because this is going to be a victory in the 'R' column," Pryce said.
Mary Jo Kilroy, the Franklin County commissioner battling Pryce, was in no mood to concede.
"The provisionals are in precincts where we believe I would do well," Kilroy said. "Plus, the Democrats did a big push for early and absentee voting and mail-in voting. So, it's very critical to see what happened with those absentee and early-voting votes. I owe it to the people of the district to wait this out."
Schmidt, who took over White House budget chief Rob Portman's seventh term in a special election last year, held a 2,000-vote lead over Victoria Wulsin, a public health doctor, in southern Ohio's 2nd District.
Like Ney, Chabot swept into Congress in the "Republican Revolution" of 1994. While happy after withstanding Tuesday's Democratic tide, Chabot said Republicans had gotten away from the conservative reform agenda that helped them gain control of Congress.
"Republicans will need to regroup. We need to get back to basics, the things that put us in the majority to begin with," Chabot said early Wednesday. "We need to get serious about balancing the budget and cutting taxes, the things the Republican Party is supposed to be most about."
He held off Cincinnati city councilman John Cranley with 53 percent of the vote in unofficial returns.
Pryce agreed that Republicans needed to make adjustments.
"This is not an end, this is a beginning," she said. "Our party needs to do some re-examining and I am going to be there every step of the way to help that."
Space said he would push for changing course in Iraq, fight against trade deals he blames for sending jobs overseas, and for allowing the government to negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices.
Across Ohio, voters voiced dissatisfaction with Bush's handling of Iraq.
"It's no longer funny to make jokes about Bush anymore because I'm so sick of this terrible loss of life," said LaWanda Walters, 57, a Democrat who said she had crossed over party lines in the past but not this year. She voted for Cranley.
In other closely watched races, three-term Republican Pat Tiberi stopped retired Democratic congressman Bob Shamansky's comeback effort in central Ohio's 12th District, while Democrats were able to keep the seats of governor-elect Ted Strickland and senator-elect Sherrod Brown.