Sen. DeWine’s Son Loses House Primary in Ohio

Times Staff Writer

Pat DeWine, son of U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, was considered an easy favorite to succeed newly named U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman as the Republican congressman from Ohio’s 2nd District -- until the younger DeWine ran afoul of the Christian right.

Now he won’t even be on the ballot in the Aug. 2 special election.

In Tuesday’s primary, 35-year-old DeWine finished a distant fourth behind Jean Schmidt, a former state representative who ran a traditional-values campaign that motivated conservative voters by staying above the vitriolic campaign fray and using techniques honed by supporters of President Bush in 2004.


Her victory and the defeat of DeWine are a sign that evangelical conservatives continue to hold powerful sway in this solidly Republican part of Ohio.

Schmidt will face Democrat Paul Hackett, a lawyer and Iraq war veteran, in August. But Schmidt is likely to win the election in this Republican district, which sprawls from Cincinnati’s east side to some of the country’s fastest-growing suburbs and on to mostly rural hill country.

Although he raised more than $1 million for his campaign, DeWine saw a commanding lead vanish over the last three months, due to objections from Christian conservatives who have become increasingly active politically.

Observers cite two factors: First, DeWine divorced three years ago, and news of the split spread on the Internet and in radio ads. Second, he suffered the wrath of conservative Christian activists after his father helped forge the recent compromise agreement in the Senate to preserve the filibuster for judicial nominations while guaranteeing confirmation of some but not all of Bush’s nominees.

“It does speak to the power of the filibuster issue among social conservatives,” said Amy Walter, who studies House races for the Cook Political Report. “I think it really turned a pretty sleepy race into a very hard-fought one.”

DeWine’s divorce was not discussed openly in the campaign, but was alluded to by other candidates. Bob McEwen, a former congressman who lost his seat in the 1990s, was endorsed by James Dobson, head of the Focus on the Family organization. Dobson broadcast radio ads highlighting McEwen’s dedication to religious values. McEwen came in second to Schmidt.

Schmidt used the slogan “Character Matters” and frequently mentioned her nearly three-decade marriage.

Tim Rudd, chairman of the Clermont County Republican Committee, said the feelings against the DeWines were palpable after the senator helped forge the filibuster compromise.

“The reaction was, ‘We’ve got one DeWine; we sure don’t want another,’ ” Rudd said. Schmidt won with about 31% of the vote. DeWine received 12%.

Times researcher Benjamin Weyl in Washington contributed to this report.