Rep. Niehaus nips Rep. Schmidt by 22 votes for White’s Senate seat

April 10, 2004
Columbus Dispatch

State Rep. Tom Niehaus has won the narrowest primary contest for the state Senate in memory, besting fellow Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt by 22 votes out of more than 34,000 cast for the 14th District nomination in southern Ohio.

A recount yesterday in Scioto County showed no change in the official count in the March 2 primary, giving Niehaus the edge.

Earlier, Niehaus had gained four votes in the recount in Clermont County, and Schmidt had gained six votes in Lawrence County and two votes in Brown County. There was no change in the recount in Adams County.

All that remains is for Clermont County, the largest in the five-county district along the Ohio River, to certify the results to the secretary of state’s office.

Niehaus will face Democrat Paul Schwietering in the fall election to succeed Senate President Doug White of Adams County, who must leave the Senate after this year because of term limits.

Click on the "Read More..." link below for more.

The campaign was marked by negative advertisements based on the tax votes the two lawmakers had cast in the House. White backed Niehaus while House Speaker Larry Householder supported Schmidt.

"I’m feeling great," Niehaus said as he drove home from Scioto County, where he oversaw the recount. "We felt confident that our original margin of victory of 26 votes would hold up."

Said Schmidt: "I’m going to wait until Clermont County officially certifies the results and then I’m going to evaluate my options."

Terry Casey, a Columbus consultant representing Schmidt, said he is not sure if further action remains to be taken.

"We’ve got to evaluate and check on documentation to see whether we pursue a course of action legally or otherwise," Casey said.

Casey said 23 extra votes showed up from Sterling Township in Brown County between election night and the official tally more than a week later, yet no provisional ballots — which are not tabulated until they are determined to be legitimate —were cast in that township.

"We’re still mystified," Casey said.

Board officials indicated that when the punch-card ballots were run through for the official tally, some chads might have been dislodged. But Casey said no similar phenomenon occurred on Democratic ballots in the county.

Casey said four unexplained extra votes showed up in Clermont County on the recount.

Both Niehaus and Schmidt are second-term representatives.

This primary contest was a win-win for concealed carry, but for the reasons we
outlined in our primary endorsement of Rep. Schmidt
last December, we thought it was worth taking sides.

The decision on endorsement was made on our ONE issue. We also had NO idea this was going to become the emotional fight that it did.

Now that it's official, Tom Niehaus deserves our congratulations, and our endorsement in the 2004 general election. He will be offered both.

Looking ahead at the goal of electing another strong leader in the Senate, we need to turn our focus to Joy Padgett (R), running against ex-hostage Terry Anderson (D) for an open seat.

While not a primary contest, the race between Padgett and Anderson to replace term-limited Sen. Jim Carnes in the 20th Senate will most definitely revolve heavily around the concealed-carry issue.

Padgett, a former House Representative, was the original sponsor of legislation allowing certain Ohioans to carry concealed firearms. Anderson, when announcing his candidacy, remarked of the concealed-carry issue that "to me, it's a false issue. It's a hot-button issue that gets to people's emotions, but it's not relevant to most real lives here. Passing concealed carry is not going to bring one more dollar into the
schools of southeastern Ohio."

Endorsements concerning these and other general election contests will be forthcoming.

Related Stories:
Choosing Among Friends: OFCC PAC Endorses Jean Schmidt for Senate District 14

Niehaus Op-Ed: Events erode the willingness of legislators to work with governor

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