Canton Repository

August 8, 2006

Ney loss would cost some clout for his district

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Rep. Bob Ney’s decision to drop his re-election bid means his successor will be a freshman lawmaker without nearly the clout the six-term lawmaker had.

Still, congressional observers say, constituents will benefit because the district — which stretches from Carroll to Ross counties — is competitive enough politically that neither Republicans nor Democrats can take it for granted. They reason that whoever succeeds the Heath Republican will get strong support from his or her party to fend off threats from a challenger in the 2008 election.

That could include help passing legislation or earmark spending projects for the district.

Ney, a former committee chairman first elected to the House in 1994, has used his seniority and leadership positions to battle for measures that benefit the district, including tariffs that President Bush imposed on foreign steel several years ago to bolster the struggling industry.

In the past two years alone, Ney got more than $80 million for highway, dam and water projects, flood prevention and other initiatives that benefited the district, according to a spending review.

As one of just two lawmakers from Ohio on the House Transportation Committee, Ney steered more than the average congressman’s share of highway spending to his area.

When Congress passed the highway bill in July 2005, it included $52 million in projects that Ney had requested for his district, said Keith Ashdown, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, an organization that monitors congressional spending.

The average congressional district received just $12.8 million in highway projects in the bill, Ashdown said.

Ney also has used his clout — which sprang from his early and active role as a GOP campaigner and fund-raiser — to influence legislation that benefits the steel and coal industries, organized labor, housing and Appalachian development.

“A freshman member does not have that kind of influence,” said Richard J. Semiatin, assistant professor of political science at American University in Washington.

Still, if Ney were replaced by a freshman, it wouldn’t be a totally bleak picture for his constituents. “I think both parties would recognize that the district would be up for grabs the next time,” said Herb Asher, a political science professor at Ohio State University.

Asher said party colleagues would likely help involve the freshman in sponsoring legislation and getting projects beneficial to the district.

“It would be a competitive district,” he said. “Clearly, whether it’s a Republican freshman or a Democratic freshman, the