Ohio 3rd District
The underestimated Dayton can hold its own against bigger cities known for fostering creative American genius in commerce. It has strong traditions of tinkering and innovation, practical organization and mechanical dreaming, as well as small-town neighborliness. Just south of the old National Road that spans the Midwest was the home of James Ritty, who in 1879 invented the cash register—that indispensable instrument of mass retail trade—and of John Henry Patterson, who bought it from Ritty for $6,500 in 1884 and established the National Cash Register company. Dayton was the home of a former employee of Patterson’s, Tom Watson Sr., who feuded with Patterson and went off in a huff to found IBM. In Dayton in the 1890s, Wilbur and Orville Wright, tinkering in their bicycle shop and observing the horseless carriages driven through Dayton’s streets, experimented with kites and gliders and constructed the first wind tunnel in the world and the first heavier-than-air flying machine, which they took to windy Kitty Hawk, N.C., for a test flight in December 1903. A few years later, Dayton’s Charles Kettering invented the automatic starter for cars and became one of the leaders of the budding automobile industry. More recently, in 1995, Dayton was a most unlikely but effective player on the international stage. It was the site the international peace negotiations that led to the agreement among countries to stop the bloody fighting in the former Yugoslavia. The 21-day summit took place at nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “From the time we landed at the airport,” wrote U.S. negotiator Richard Holbrooke, “until the time we left, we felt that we were in a community that was literally praying for us. People were lighting candles in their windows, there were signs all over the airport and on the byways. That would never have happened in New York or in Washington. And it made a tremendous impression on people.”
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In the 1970s and 1980s, Dayton’s economy sputtered. General Motors, then the area’s largest employer, was in trouble and NCR was taken over in a merger. Manufacturing jobs continue to exit, especially with the bankruptcy of GM parts supplier Delphi Corp, but the local economy eventually turned around. Wright-Patterson base became the biggest employer, and is the Air Force’s largest site for analyzing intelligence about foreign aerospace and weapons technology. Today there are more scientists, engineers, computer specialists and technicians here than GM workers. The area’s small manufacturers and suppliers have produced more patents per capita than any other city in the nation. Dayton entered another period of economic gloom in 2008 and 2009 as the national economy soured. It has been bleeding manufacturing jobs for two years, and in November 2008, DHL closed an air cargo hub at the Wilmington Air Park in Clinton County, costing the region 10,000 jobs. Then, in a major psychological as well as economic blow for the city, NCR announced in June 2009 that it was leaving after 125 years, taking away Dayton’s last Fortune 500 company and the 1,300 jobs it provided.
The 3rd Congressional District of Ohio includes most of Dayton and all but the northeast corner of Montgomery County. It takes in the northern half of fast-growing suburban Warren County, and the mostly rural and small town Clinton and Highland counties. Republican George W. Bush won 54% of the vote in the 2004 presidential election, and GOP nominee John McCain got 52% in 2008.