“I hate to concede already, but it’s the truth,” said Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly. “I don’t know of a Democrat out there that can take on [state senator] Steve Austria – unless someone will move into the district.”
Immediately after Hobson’s retirement announcement, GOP state senator Steve Austria announced his candidacy. Kelly called him a very “formidable opponent” and predicted he would be able to raise sizable amount of money for the campaign. He added that the sprawling district, covering eight counties, makes it challenging and expensive to run a district-wide campaign.
Austria’s state legislative district is entirely in the congressional district, giving him a geographic advantage over potential rivals.
The district, spanning south-central Ohio, is reliably Republican. President Bush won 57 percent of the vote there in 2004. Hobson always won at least 60 percent of the vote since first elected in 1990, and he was expected to face token opposition next year.
At the same time, Democrats performed respectably in the district in last year’s congressional elections: Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland won about 58 percent of the vote, while Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown won 50 percent there.