One major party candidate — the incumbent Republican — is known more for her frequent public flubs, like calling a disabled former Marine “a coward” for disagreeing with her on the Iraq War, than for offering any sort of coherent legislative agenda.
Another major party candidate — the Democratic challenger — is a physician who’s given conflicting accounts about her involvement with dubious medical experiments in Africa that saw HIV patients deliberately injected with malaria as a possible AIDS cure, a procedure that would be illegal in the United States.
Maybe that’s partially the reason why one national pundit described Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District race as a “nightmare” when writing about it before the March primary.
Republican Jean Schmidt is seeking her second full term in the U.S. House of Representatives after winning a special election in 2005 to replace longtime Rep. Rob Portman. She’s a former schoolteacher and fitness instructor from Miami Township who’s active in the Right to Life movement.
Democrat Victoria Wulsin is a physician from Indian Hill who narrowly lost a campaign battle for this seat against Schmidt in 2006. Schmidt prevailed 50.6 to 49.3 percent in a district that was a Republican stronghold for decades.
With anti-GOP sentiment running high because of the Iraq War and Wall Street’s financial crisis, Wulsin hopes this is the year that the 2nd District turns from red to blue.
Also seeking the seat is independent David Krikorian, a Madeira businessman who owns a company selling novelties like jigsaw puzzles and playing cards. Krikorian says both Schmidt and Wulsin are out of touch with the views of most district voters.
Writing about the race earlier this year in Roll Call, a Washington, D.C.based newspaper that covers Congress, Stuart Rothenberg sharply criticized Schmidt and Wulsin and essentially declared the race a toss-up.
The 2nd District spans seven counties in southwestern Ohio, most of them along the Ohio River. It includes eastern parts of Cincinnati such as Madisonville as well as Sharonville, Blue Ash, Deer Park, Lebanon, Loveland, Madeira, Montgomery, Newtown, Terrace Park and Indian Hill and all or parts of Anderson, Sycamore and Symmes townships.
As she’s done since taking office, Schmidt ignored CityBeat’s requests for interviews. In fact, the publicity-shy public servant avoids the media, given her tendency to misspeak and embarrass herself.
During the past three years she’s been a staunch supporter of President Bush and introduced resolutions calling for restrictions on the government’s use of eminent domain, banning human cloning and forbidding federal courts from hearing cases that challenge the Pledge of Allegiance’s constitutionality.
She also proposed a tax credit for mothers who put their children up for adoption rather than getting an abortion, asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve the safety of levees nationwide and voted for the recent Wall Street bailout plan after opposing the initial version
Critics say Schmidt’s record of accomplishments is skimpy and note that her campaign Web site lists none at all, content merely to ask for donations and volunteer help.
Wulsin has given several interviews to CityBeat in the past, but her campaign manager, Kevin Franck, was angered by some questions given in writing to the campaign and blocked access to the candidate. In a telephone call, Franck called CityBeat “irresponsible” for asking the questions and abruptly hung up the phone in mid-conversation.
After a back-and-forth exchange of e-mails, Franck promised to have Wulsin answer several other questions but didn’t reply by deadline.
The questions that angered Franck were first raised by Schmidt’s campaign and sought clarification about why Wulsin failed to file a Financial Disclosure Statement for her 2005 campaign as required under federal law, why Wulsin failed to report her 1,152-acre Pike County farm until 2008 even though she’s owned it since 1993 and who paid Wulsin and how much she received for the review of human testing done on African AIDS patients.
In the past, Wulsin’s campaign declined comment on whether she ever filed the 2005 report. Additionally, Franck has noted that the farm was included in amended filings in December 2007 and May 2008 but couldn’t explain its absence in previous reports.
Wulsin’s campaign has said her malariotherapy work was limited to a quick review. Wulsin “was given a single page of data from an experiment taking place in Africa,” the campaign said previously. “Dr. Wulsin’s contract with the Heimlich Institute was terminated the day after her draft report was submitted for review by the Institute’s board and the board of the parent, Deaconess Foundation.”
The account, however, isn’t consistent with other comments. Although Wulsin’s report is dated December 2004, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported in January 2005 that, “Last February, (Wulsin) was hired by the Heimlich Institute to do a four-month literature review of malariotherapy.”
Franck told CityBeat that further clarification wasn’t necessary. The questions “have been asked and answered as fully as either campaign is prepared,” he wrote. “How is the public interest served by waisting (sic) column inches discussing three-year-old paperwork?”
Wulsin has said in the past that Schmidt doesn’t represent the interests of middle-class families.
“I don’t think she’s putting families first,” Wulsin told CityBeat earlier this year. “She’s spending resources elsewhere that should be going to our families.”
Wulsin supports expansion of the federal S-CHIP health insurance program to include more children and wants a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq.
“I believe we need to bring our troops home immediately, safely and honorably,” she says. “(That’s) as soon as practical. Most experts say that’s about 16 months. … We need to regain our position in the world as peace seekers, not war mongers.”
Krikorian says he offers a moderate alternative to the other candidates. In fact, an article by Josh Kraushaar on independent congressional candidates on Politico.com concluded that “of all the candidates, Krikorian can make the most credible argument for how he could actually win.”
Schmidt has a slippery hold on the truth, which is what prompted Krikorian to back one of her opponents in 2006 and run against her himself this year, he says.
“She has taken a stance, something that is absolutely insane, that the Armenian genocide (by Turkey) never occurred in World War I,” he says. “Both my grandparents barely survived it. She denies basic historic facts, and these facts are extremely hurtful to my family. That made me take a look at all of her views.”
Schmidt takes the position, he adds, because she accepts campaign money from the Turkish government. “My two opponents take hundreds of thousands of dollars in PAC money but have the audacity to say they represent the people,” Krikorian says.
Among his positions, Krikorian wants to ban all political contributions from financial services firms, end the capital gains tax on long-term investments, eliminate the tax on savings and substantially reduce U.S. military intervention in other nations.
“I don’t know why we need 1,800 bases outside the country and all of these troop deployments,” he says. The United States should scale back its military presence to just a few strategic points around the globe.”
Krikorian opposes legalized abortion but maintains it’s not his legislative focus.
“I am not running on any social issues,” he says. “I think they’re brought up to divide us. I am personally against abortion, but is it really the role of government to dictate personal moral decisions? My own personal take is a million abortions a year is a sign of a society in decay.”
Such views have Republican leaders calling Krikorian a secret Democrat and vice-versa. For the record, Krikorian says he voted Democratic in the 2006 election but mostly voted Republican before that time.
It’s a measure of how dissatisfied voters are with the nation’s direction that the 2nd District race is competitive at all.
Although the district is predominantly Republican — with 49 percent of voters identifying as Republican and 34 percent as Democrats — a recent poll commissioned by Wulsin found she has 81 percent support among fellow Democrats while Schmidt garnered only 65 percent support among fellow Republicans.
The 2nd District has been under GOP control for all but nine years since 1879. The last Democrat to win a full term there was Cincinnati native (and future Ohio Gov.) John Gilligan in 1964.