December 3, 2006
Space faces tougher road than hero JFK
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON – Rep.-elect Zack Space says he is thrilled to be
moving into the same Capitol Hill office that his political
hero, John F. Kennedy, occupied when he began his political
career in Congress.
“Hopefully some of that energy and optimism that he brought when
he got into public service will rub off on us and serve as an
inspiration to me in Congress,” said the Dover Democrat, who is
succeeding convicted ex-Rep. Bob Ney, a Republican.
But Space’s choice of quarters on the third floor of the Cannon
House Office Building also brings to mind a notable difference
in the political realities faced by Space and Kennedy, who was
elected to the House 60 years ago.
Kennedy came to Congress representing an overwhelmingly
Democratic district in Massachusetts, in which he easily won
re-election twice before moving to the Senate and then the
Space, however, will represent a district that has leaned
strongly Republican since its boundaries were redrawn by GOP
leaders in 2001.
The political neophyte was assisted in his win by Ney’s
conviction on corruption charges, a state GOP scandal and a wave
of voter discontent that swept Democrats into control of the
House and Senate.
The Ohio Republican Party already has targeted Space for defeat
in 2008. Political observers view him as among half a dozen of
the most vulnerable newly-elected Democrats who will face
re-election in two years.
“I am not at all worried about that talk,” Space said in a phone
interview last week. He was attending a three-day congressional
preparation program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy
School of Government.
“What I’m interested in and I think what the people of my
district are interested in is to see what kind of job I do,” he
He figures if he works hard, is honest with his constituents,
stands up for working families and remembers why he is in
Congress, the “re-election campaign will take care of itself.”
In preparation for his swearing in Jan. 4, Space is hiring up to
18 full-time staff members to be spread among his Washington
office and three or four constituent service offices in the
Dover-New Philadelphia area and other locations in the 18th
He’ll return to Washington on Tuesday for two days of
Democrat-only briefings on the economy and foreign policy.
Space, 45, is likely to benefit from some early help from
Democratic House leaders anticipating his presumed re-election
bid. It could come in the form of a choice committee assignment,
the chance to introduce a significant piece of legislation or
other responsibilities that would strengthen his hand against a
GOP opponent, political observers say.
He is seeking a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee,
one of the more powerful committees that are typically beyond
the reach of freshmen lawmakers. His second choice is the
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which doles out a
lot of federal money for local projects.
Space notes that outgoing Reps. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, and Ted
Strickland, D-Lisbon, served on Energy and Commerce. He’s making
the case that one of those vacancies should go to another Ohio
The committee also would give Space a platform to work on
alternative energy legislation, one of his priorities.
John C. Fortier, an expert on Congress at the American
Enterprise Institute, said getting a slot on Energy and Commerce
or another committee that moves key legislation affecting
business would give Space an advantage in raising campaign
contributions to defend against a Republican challenge.
After campaigning on the theme of cleaning up Washington, Space
also has asked to sponsor part of the ethics package that
Democratic leaders plan to introduce early next year.
Space said he hasn’t received any promises from Democratic
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for incoming House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi, D-Calif., declined to comment on whether Space would be
allowed to introduce an ethics bill, except to say the decision
likely hasn’t been made.
Hammill said when it comes to committee assignments, the
competitiveness of a lawmaker’s district is one factor that is
considered, along with merit and a desire for diversity on the
Political observers say while Space is vulnerable, it would be
premature to assume he is a one-termer.
“I think he can survive,” said William Binning, chairman of the
political science department at Youngstown State University. “He
has to be skillful in the way he goes about presenting himself.”
Binning, who also has a part-time job as regional liaison for
Republican Gov. Bob Taft, believes Space would be best served by
demonstrating a certain degree of independence from the
Democratic Party and showing “he has the district’s interests at
Fortier said Space can benefit from a “government reformer-type”
Space already is focused on one of the most vital factors in
re-election – solving constituents’ problems.
“We want to create a real strong constituent service system,” he
said, noting that he may assign more staff to his district
offices in Ohio than to Washington.
“Say what you will about Bob Ney, I think he was well known for
his strong constituent services. We’re hoping to meet or exceed
that which he put into play.”