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It’s all uphill from here for GOP freshman Rep. David Joyce.
After easily winning his first term in Congress, Joyce’s new House district stands to host one of the most targeted races of 2014 in the mother of all battleground states: Ohio.
Most of the Buckeye State’s traditionally competitive districts are no longer after Republicans shored them up through redistricting. But the GOP left the swing 14th District alone, believing nine-term Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Ohio, would hold onto the seat as long as he wanted it.
But it turned out that LaTourette didn’t want the seat much longer. He unexpectedly announced his retirement last August. Local Republicans nominated Joyce as his replacement, and he defeated a perennial Democratic candidate by a double-digit margin in November.
Joyce won’t have it so easy this cycle. In late November, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York named the seat as one of the party’s top four targets in 2014. That’s not surprising given that 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney carried the 14th District by a slim 3-point margin in last year’s presidential race.
“It is without a doubt the most competitive race in Ohio,” said Joe Cimperman, a Cleveland city councilman and Democrat. “I think it’s going to be one of the top 10 most competitive races in the country.”
Local Democrats are talking up several names from all over the Cleveland area as Joyce challengers. But attorney Michael Wager, a prominent donor and fundraiser, is by far the most active of the crop.
Wager was one of the first candidates to walk through the DCCC’s doors for the 2014 cycle. On a trip to Washington, D.C., in December, he chatted with committee officials and House Democrats from Ohio, including Rep. Marcy Kaptur.
Around that time, Wager wrote in an email to friends that he planned to seek the seat.
“After supporting others seeking office over so many years, I have decided to run for Congress (Ohio’s 14th Congressional District) and that 2014 is the time for me,” he wrote in a Dec. 6 email, a copy of which was obtained by CQ Roll Call. “I would welcome an opportunity to talk to you about my candidacy.”
Not coincidentally, online fundraising records show he’s donated to almost every prominent Democrat in the state, including Ryan and former Reps. Betty Sutton, John Boccieri and Charlie Wilson. In 2012, Wager brought in big bucks for Brown as the senator’s finance director in a very expensive race.