Political Sin of the Father Visits Son of DeWine

“All the aristocrats, the corporate CEOs and their big political action committees, the big-name endorsements and the high-powered lobbyists just couldn’t win it for Pat DeWine. He just forgot to get the votes,” said Ohio GOP activist Eddie Edwards, explaining the defeat of Sen. Mike DeWine’s son in a Republican U.S. House primary last week.

Despite raising more than $1 million and having a famous political name, 37-year-old Pat DeWine was badly beaten in the primary to succeed former Rep. Rob Portman (R.-Ohio), who resigned from Congress to become U.S. trade representative.

Not only did Hamilton County Commissioner DeWine lose after having begun the primary race with a double-digit lead in one poll, but he placed a miserable fourth, trailing three opponents who all ran to his right. The winner was conservative former state Rep. Jean Schmidt, who edged conservative former six-term Rep. Bob McEwen by 705 votes. The third-place finisher was conservative state Rep. Tom Brinkman, Jr.

How did the best-known, best-financed candidate lose? One reason cited is his father’s decision to become one of the McCain Seven, a group of Republican senators who cut a deal with Senate Democrats to preserve judicial filibusters.

“The name became something of a curse last week,” reported the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Howard Wilkinson June 1, soon after the elder DeWine became one of the McCain Seven. Wilkinson concluded the senator’s “move angered many conservative Republicans nationwide, and in the 2nd District, despite the younger DeWine’s repeated statements that he did not agree with his father’s actions.”

Boyd Piper, Jr., a Republican from Clermont County, told the Enquirer he was so angry with the elder DeWine’s action that he printed a bumper sticker that read: “1 DeWine in Congress is 1 too many.”

Voters may have been further inclined to link the son’s campaign to his father’s actions because the father raised so much of the son’s war chest. No fewer than 27 current or former members of Congress made big donations to Pat DeWine, including the political action committees of GOP Senators Bill Frist (Tenn.), John McCain (Ariz.), Rick Santorum (Penn.) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.).

To be sure, Pat DeWine had problems of his own, ranging from the fact he had been county commissioner less than a year to a much-publicized divorce. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer put it: “The senator’s son, a 35-year-old Cincinnati lawyer and Hamilton County commissioner left his wife shortly before his third and youngest son was born in March 2002.”

Primary winner Schmidt, who is a past president of Cincinnati Right-to-Life and a strong 2nd Amendment supporter, is considered a shoo-in in the special election next month.