Open Season on Democrats: Steve Driehaus (Ohio)

Posted: Apr 01, 2010 12:01 AM
Open Season on Democrats: Steve Driehaus (Ohio)
This is part of a series that's National Political Reporter Jillian Bandes is doing on vulnerable Democrats called "Open Season."

Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) is a freshman Democrat in a pro-life district who voted for the health care bill and is up for re-election this November.

In other words: it’s not fun to be Steve Driehaus right now.

Driehaus was part of Rep. Bart Stupak’s supposedly pro-life crowd, which switched their votes at the eleventh hour on the health care bill, ensuring the bill’s passage.

Image inspired by Andrew Breitbart

He’s the first Democrat to represent the district in fourteen years and gained his seat during the wave of Democratic victories associated with President Barack Obama’s election. Immediately after Driehaus’ vote, both the National Right to Life and Ohio Right to Life downgraded Driehaus’ pro-life rating.

Just as important is the district’s fiscal conservatism, something Driehaus campaigned on heavily during his 2008 election. But throughout his tenure, he has consistently voted on financially irresponsible legislation like cap and trade and the stimulus packages. He is an original sponsor of the anti-market card check legislation, and has voted the same as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 94% of the time.

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Though internal polling isn’t available for the Driehaus’ upcoming campaign, a Firedoglake / SurveyUSA poll in early January had him losing by a whopping seventeen points to challenger Steve Chabot, the former Republican Congressman whom Driehaus defeated in 2008.

Chabot is chomping at the bit to get the seat back when November 2010 rolls around.

“The overall environment is much more positive for us. The enthusiasm on our side is through the roof at this point,” said Jamie Schwartz, Chabot’s campaign manager. “We were joking on the campaign that even though its only March, sometimes it feels like September.”

Driehaus’ situation is complicated even further by the breakdown of his precinct and district. Though his district, Ohio-1, is about an even split between Republican and Democratic party affiliation, his own precinct is strongly Republican. The media has been fond of interviewing members of Driehaus’ church, who believe he sold out his pro-life views.

“He voted for the most pro-abortion piece of legislation to ever pass Congress. Anyone who would vote for such a piece of legislation we would not consider pro-life,” said David O’Speen, the executive director of National Right to Life. “His overall voting record was 40% pro-life, anyway. So he voted against the pro-life side in Congress more than half the time.”

Another problem for Driehaus is the Cincinnati tea party, which has mobilized entirely around his health care vote. Several factions have held rallies and protests against him, and those activities will only become more vigilant into the summer and fall.

Driehaus called such opponents of the health care bill “opponents of reform” who are responsible for a “campaign of misinformation, scare tactics, and obstructionist legislative practices.”