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Whither Ohio as the Ultimate House Battleground?

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
If Portman opts to not seek re-election — for whatever reason, including higher office — Democrats expect several candidates to run for the open Senate seat.

The House map battleground is subdued — at least compared to the past decade, when Ohio usually featured several competitive House races every cycle. There are 12 Republicans and four Democrats in the House delegation. Before last cycle, Republicans drew a congressional map that packed the state’s Democrats into four House districts. No serious Republican would argue the party has a chance at picking up any more seats in Ohio.

There are a few GOP-held House seats that operatives see as potentially competitive, but they all tilt in the Republicans’ favor.

The most competitive House seat in Ohio is the 14th District, which is currently represented by Republican Rep. David Joyce. Attorney Michael Wager, a Democrat, is challenging Joyce this cycle. If Wager fails in November, one Ohio Democrat said he could try again in 2016 with the benefit of presidential-year turnout.

Democrats also named state Rep. Kathleen Clyde as a future contender in the 14th District.

Democrats remain bullish about their chances in Republican Rep. Bill Johnson’s 6th District. National Democrats have promoted their recruit there, former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison, as one of their top candidates of the cycle. If she fails, Ohio Democrats say that state Sen. Lou Gentile could give also give Johnson trouble down the road, although he declined to run this cycle.

Republicans expect Rep. Michael R. Turner’s district to be competitive when he retires, although he’s given no indication he plans to leave Congress anytime soon. When he does, Democrats will likely play for the seat. Their top up-and-comer in the district is recently elected Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. State Reps. Cliff Rosenberger and Jim Butler are potential GOp successors.

Meanwhile, both parties are grooming deep benches in the strong partisan areas that make up the rest of the House map. That includes the 8th District, currently represented by Speaker John. A. Boehner. If he left office, Republicans name state Senate President Keith Faber, state Sen. Bill Coley, former state Sen. Gary Cates or Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones as GOP contenders.

If Stivers runs for Senate, state and national operatives name state Sen. Jim Hughes and state Rep. Stephanie Kunze as future GOP contenders for his sprawling district in central Ohio.

Democrats concede they do not have much of a shot at Republican Rep. Steve Chabot’s 1st District seat. But they have their eye on Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. With Sittenfeld at only age 29, Democrats hope he can build a career over the next eight years and be prepared to run for a more favorable version of the Cincinnati-based district after next decade’s round of redistricting in 2022.

Farm Team is a weekly state-by-state look at the up-and-coming politicos who may eventually run for Congress.

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