Races of the Week

Indiana’s U.S. Senate Race
Coats vs. Ellsworth

“Mr. Yesterday”…“Blast from the Past”…“Has Been”…These are some of the not-so-nice things political enemies of Dan Coats said about him when he announced for the U.S. Senate seat he had held from 1989 until he honored his term-limit pledge and stepped down in 1998. At 67 and out of elective politics for a dozen years, critics charged that Coats’ best years were behind him.

But similar criticism was thrown at Charles DeGaulle and Winston Churchill before they returned to politics in their later years in the darkest of times for their countries.

That’s where Coats is coming from. As he has said, “After serving in the Army, the House [1980-89] and Senate, and as a U.S. ambassador [to Germany, under George W. Bush], I had spent a life in public service and had a few titles for life. I didn’t need to return to politics. But when I consider the condition of our country today, from the excessive spending at home to the President’s feeble foreign policy of running around the world apologizing for the U.S., I said that’s inexcusable. I had to do something.”

So Coats declared for the Senate and within two days, two-term Sen. Evan Bayh (D.-Ind.) announced his retirement. Hoosier primary voters clearly decided Coats was by no means an over-the-hill figure, as he won the Republican nomination defeating three opponents.

With Bayh exiting on the eve of the filing deadline, Hoosier Democrats had no candidates to choose from in their primary. So the 32 members of the state executive committee chose two-term Rep. Brad Ellsworth (lifetime ACU rating: 28%) as their Senate nominee.
“And there is a very clear distinction between us, aside from the fact I was chosen by the voters and he was chosen by 32 insiders,” says Coats (lifetime ACU rating: 90%). “My opponent is on the House Armed Services Committee and goes along fully with the Obama foreign policy. I will not.”

The contest between Coats and Ellsworth is also, in the conservative hopeful’s words, “about personal character.” As he recalls, “Two days before the healthcare vote, after insisting he would never vote for a bill without a ban on tax dollars for abortion, my opponent did just that and pointed to an executive order not worth the paper it was written on as the reason.”

In 1980, as Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency, freshman Rep. Coats came to Congress. The 40th President, whose policies Coats worked for in the House, had assured the country that “America’s best days lie ahead.” What better way to make those words resonate today than to send an infantryman in the Reagan Revolution to the Senate?

New York’s 9th U.S. House District
Turner vs. Weiner

The story of how Bob Turner ended up carrying the standards of the Republican and the New York Conservative parties against leftist Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner is truly an American saga—and very much typical of this turbulent political year.

“I was watching Mr. Weiner on “The O’Reilly Factor” and growing very angry as he kept dodging a responsible answer on public compliance with the healthcare bill Democrats were trying to pass,” recalled Turner, a retired TV producer and advertising executive. “I later called [Conservative Party State Chairman] Mike Long and told him how vague our congressman was on such an important issue. And I asked Mike what I could do to help defeat [Weiner].”

The rest, as they say, is history. Turner, whose major political activity consisted of writing donation checks, quickly became the candidate himself against Weiner (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 5%). 

In a district where the incumbent has almost never faced a strong general election opponent since Weiner first won the seat in 1998 (and whose previous congressman was current Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer), the Turner candidacy is significant. 

Born in the Woodhaven part of Queens (“where I started a Young Americans for Freedom Chapter before I could vote”) and a graduate of St. John’s College, Bob Turner has spent much of his adult life as one of the true “Mad Men” TV viewers have come to know from the hit series about Madison Avenue advertising executives. He has also run four major companies that distribute television shows.

“And when I was president of Multimedia, I brought Rush Limbaugh to television for four years,” says Turner proudly. “And, boy, did we get bombed with complaints from NOW [National Organization for Women] and the other Democratic surrogates.” Under Turner’s aegis, “Mysteries of the Bible” also came to the airwaves.

A father of five and grandfather of 11, Turner makes no bones about his conservatism on cultural or social issues. As to the charge that such positions won’t “sell” in a district that includes parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, Turner responds: “Within days of my deciding to run, we had calls from more than 1,000 people asking what they could do to help. People are fed up with wasteful spending, the healthcare bill, and how Democrats in Congress refused to look at investment tax credits and other means of jump-starting the private sector. That’s what I know about and that’s why I’m running.” 
“The times they are a changing,” says Bob Turner, “I don’t know if you call it a ‘Tea Party,’ but there are a lot of people calling me and wanting change. With a little help from my friends, I can do it, and make history in New York.”

Ohio 16th Congressional District
Renacci vs. Boccieri

“Flukish” is about the best way to describe the U.S. House race in Ohio’s 16th District (Canton) in 2008. With Republican Rep. Ralph Regula stepping down after 38 years, three GOP candidates waged a hard-fought primary. In November, Democratic State Sen. John Boccieri capitalized on the Republican disunity and rode Barack Obama’s coattails to become the district’s first Democratic congressman in 58 years.

But what a difference two years make! Boccieri (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 8%) has voted for cap-and-trade climate legislation, TARP bailout money and the Obama stimulus package.

“And worst of all, after voting ‘no’ on the Democratic healthcare bill last year because he said the cost was too high, he voted ‘yes’ this year,” charges former Wadsworth Mayor Jim Renacci, Boccieri’s GOP opponent this November. “He put his allegiance to [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi over that to his constituents, and that’s why I’m running.”
Renacci, who won the Republican nomination over two opponents with nearly half the primary vote, likes to note that Boccieri was a state representative and a state senator before going to Congress.

“And I’ve been in business for 27 years,” says the conservative hopeful. “Politics is an avocation and not a profession to me.” The son of a railroad worker and a nurse, Renacci worked as a certified public accountant for the Grant Thornton firm before launching his own business in 1984 with $100. After 16 years of owning, operating and managing nursing homes, he finally sold his company in 2000.

That same year, Renacci was elected council president of Wadsworth and then went on to be mayor. When he began his stint on the council, Wadsworth was saddled with $1.5 million in debt. Under Renacci’s leadership, the town turned red ink into black.
“And we did it,” he recalled, “by cutting $2 million in costs and not raising taxes. There’s no telling what you can do when you apply solid business principles to public problems.”

As federal deficit spending and government programs expand, is there any more cogent case for electing Jim Renacci to Congress?