Rep. Mike Turner (R)
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.
Rep. Mike Turner (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Jan. 11, 1960, Dayton .
Education: OH N. U., B.A. 1982, Case Western Reserve U., J.D. 1985, U. of Dayton, M.B.A. 1992.
Family: Married (Lori); 2 children.
Elected office: Dayton mayor, 1993-2001.
Professional Career: Practicing atty.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Mike Turner, a Republican elected in 2002. Turner grew up in Dayton, where his father worked 42 years for GM. He graduated from Ohio Northern University, Case Western law school and the University of Dayton business school and became a corporate lawyer. In 1993, at age 33, he narrowly defeated a scandal-tainted Democratic incumbent to win the first of two terms as mayor of Dayton. He narrowly lost a bid for re-election in 2001. Ohio and national Republican leaders recruited him to challenge 3rd District Democratic Rep. Tony Hall, who had served 12 terms but was vulnerable after post-2000 census redistricting made his turf considerably more Republican. In early 2002, Turner announced he was running for Congress, the same day the Ohio Legislature passed their redistricting plan. A week later, President Bush nominated Hall as ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.
|Mike Turner (R)||200,204||(63%)||($1,058,000)|
|Jane Mitakides (D)||115,976||(37%)||($462,075)|
|Mike Turner (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (59%), 2004 (62%), 2002 (59%)
In the Republican primary, Turner had fierce opposition from newspaper publisher Roy Brown, grandson and son of former U.S. Reps. Clarence Brown and Clarence Brown Jr., who had represented the neighboring 7th District from 1938 to 1982. Brown spent $1.3 million of his own money in the primary, largely on ads attacking Turner’s record on taxes and crime and lambasting him for being insufficiently conservative. Brown owned more than 50 newspapers, 10 in the 3rd District. Turner contended that Brown’s campaign guided his newspapers’ coverage of the race. Then, a few days before the primary, the Ohio Election Commission ruled that Brown violated state law with false statements in a televised ad. Voters evidently took the same view. Turner beat Brown 80%-14%. The general election was comparatively sedate. The Democratic nominee was Rick Carne, Hall’s chief of staff. He had little support from the national party but he raised nearly $600,000, with help from a local appearance by Dayton native Martin Sheen, who played President Bartlet on popular The West Wing television series. Turner won 59%-41%.
In the House, Turner got a seat on Armed Services and worked successfully to keep the Wright-Patterson base off the base-closing list and to expand its jobs, including a new center for research on fixed-wing aircraft—solid first steps for a new member of Congress. In October 2007, he worked to pass a bipartisan bill in the House to require the Bush administration to prepare contingency plans to withdraw troops from Iraq. And Turner collaborated with Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., to review the military’s handling of sexual assault charges. Also in 2007, he was successful in getting the Office of the Architect of the Capitol to return the word “God” to the official certificates with flags that are sent to constituents.
Turner formed a caucus of former mayors serving in Congress to focus on urban issues. In 2006, he worked on House-passed legislation to accelerate clean-up of polluted brownfields by making it easier for communities to apply for federal grants for revitalization efforts. He also promoted the kind of public-private partnerships that he used for economic development in Dayton. In March 2009, Turner was one of seven House Republicans to support a bill that would give bankruptcy judges the power to restructure the terms of home mortgages. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the bill “just the worst idea in the world.”
Turner seems entrenched in what had been a safe Democratic district. In 2006, three months after veterinarian Stephanie Studebaker won the Democratic nomination to challenge him, both she and her husband were arrested at their home and charged with domestic violence. She withdrew as a candidate. In September, federal prosecutor Richard Chema won a special primary to replace her, but Turner won easily. In 2008, Democratic challenger and investment manager Jane Mitakides ran, criticizing Turner for supporting Bush’s policies. And in August before the election, Ohio Democrats made an issue of the fact that he had not disclosed a five-year business relationship between his wife, Lori Turner, and home builder Tom Peebles, who had contributed to Turner’s campaign. Turner asked for a ruling from the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and the panel concluded he did not have to disclose the relationship between Peebles and his wife. Turner won 63%-37%.