OH-01: Chabot vs. Cranley

When you’ve been one of the House managers in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, a co-author of the legislation that banned federal funding for partial birth abortions, have a 12-year conservative voting record and represent a district that was carried by George W. Bush only barely (51% to 49%) in ’04, the odds are good you’re going to face some pretty determined Democratic opposition.

So it is with Rep. Steve Chabot (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 98%). In a year when the GOP in Ohio has been devastated by scandals, the 53-year-old Chabot is under fire in the Buckeye State’s ever-marginal 1st District (Cincinnati) from City Councilman John Cranley.

Sure, the liberal Cranley was the Democratic standard-bearer against Chabot in 2000 and lost with 45% of the vote. But this is a different year and Cranley has different kinds of support: George Soros, the American Trial Lawyers Association, AFSCME, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) have all weighed in strongly for Cranley.

The differences between the protagonists are clear: Chabot voted for the Bush tax cuts and wants to make them permanent, while Cranley opposed an ’01 rollback on property taxes as city councilman. While Chabot has been in the forefront of attempts to end the death tax permanently, Cranley voted for a resolution on the council calling on Congress not to eliminate the tax. Chabot championed the House measure on illegal immigration calling for greater border security, but Cranley says he supports a vast guest-worker program.

When Chabot himself was on the City Council (1985-90), he was a leader on measures to ease the tax and regulatory burden so that new businesses would be attracted to the Gem City. And Cranley, who has been chairman of the Council Finance Committee? According to the Cincinnati Post, “the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city’s population decreased 6.8% the past five years, the highest rate of any major American city. Now the Kosmont-Rose Institute Cost of Doing Business Survey has found that Cincinnati is the second-most expensive city in the nation for companies to do business.”

For decades, it was said that the Cincinnati could elect only Republicans of a moderate stripe—such as the late Mayor Charles Taft, or former Rep. (1966-74) William Keating, later publisher of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Given that Steve Chabot demonstrated a conservative could win without trimming his sails, do not conservatives owe him their solid support in his time of need?