“The dynamics of the race aren’t what they were at the beginning of the year,” said NRCC spokesman Ed Patru about the contest between Republican Chuck Blasdel and Democrat Charlie Wilson.
Republicans saw the conservative-leaning district as a prime target after Rep. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who represented the 6th District since 1997, decided to run for governor. But as local and national scandals began to hurt the Republicans, Wilson pulled ahead in the polls and has maintained a 30-point lead heading into Election Day.
A poll released Oct. 19 by SurveyUSA for WYTV in Youngstown gave Wilson a 64 percent lead over Blasdel’s 32 percent, with only 3 percent of voters undecided. A poll released Sept. 29 gave Wilson 54 percent to Blasdel’s 41 percent, with 5 percent of voters undecided.
Wilson’s campaign had a rocky start after he failed to qualify for the Democratic primary in July, but won anyway as a write-in candidate. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poured $1 million into his campaign, significantly boosting his name recognition.
Wilson also benefited from Strickland’s gubernatorial campaign and Democrats expect strong turnout among Strickland’s supporters to benefit Wilson. Polls give Strickland a double-digit lead over Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to replace Republican Gov. Bob Taft, who was convicted of not reporting gifts.
Having read the writing on the wall, the NRCC switched gears from targeting Democratic seats like the 6th District to supporting Republican incumbents in danger, primarily in the 15th District where Rep. Deborah Pryce, the highest-ranking woman in the Republican leadership, is trailing her Democratic challenger Mary Jo Kilroy.
As with the rest of Ohio, the economy is expected to play the largest role in the 6th District race, and both candidates have promised to work to bring more jobs into the area.
“If you drive up and down the district, the challenges are the same. Everyone wants a decent paying job, a chance to work five days a week and to go to church on Sunday,” said Blasdel in the Herald Star of Steubenville. “They want their kids to get through college and to give them a better life than they had.”
For Wilson, the district’s economic troubles come from underemployment caused after people who once had better paying industrial jobs were forced to work for minimum wage in low-skill employment. He proposed bringing jobs to the area by turning Eastern Ohio into a power supplier to the East Coast.
“We have the river to provide water for the new technology of coal liquefication. We have a very skilled labor force. We have the natural resource in coal. We are well-positioned,” Wilson said.
The two candidates worked together in the Ohio statehouse and have run a generally cordial campaign, though Blasdel has criticized Wilson for living in the 18th District while running to represent the 6th.