Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: April 30, 1949, Euclid .
Education: Cleveland St. U., B.A. 1977; OH St. U., J.D. 1980.
Family: Married (Robert); 2 children.
Elected office: Columbus Schl. Bd., 1991-2000; Franklin Cnty. Commission, 2000-08, pres. 2005-07.
Professional Career: Practicing atty, Handelman & Kilroy.
The new congresswoman from the 15th Congressional District is Mary Jo Kilroy, the first Democrat since 1982 to represent a Columbus-area House district. In 2008, she won the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce, who had prevailed in a contest against Kilroy two years earlier by only 1,055 votes. The daughter of a pipe fitter, Kilroy was born in Euclid in the Cleveland area. She worked her way through college, taking jobs at hospitals and restaurants. After receiving her law degree from the Ohio State University, she went into private practice with her husband, and in 1991, she was elected to the Columbus School Board. Her next stop, in 2000, was the Franklin County Commission, where she rose to become commission president in 2005 and was instrumental in creating the Franklin County Affordable Housing Trust Corporation, aimed at increasing the number of minority homeowners.
|Mary Jo Kilroy (D)||139,584||(46%)||($2,611,122)|
|Steve Stivers (R)||137,272||(45%)||($2,244,221)|
|Mark Noble (Lib)||14,061||(5%)|
|Don Eckhart (I)||12,915||(4%)||($33,596)|
|Mary Jo Kilroy (D)||Unopposed|
In 2006, the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruited Kilroy to take on Pryce, a popular former member of the Republican leadership in the House. When news stories broke that year about Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley’s lewd email messages to male congressional pages, Kilroy publicized Pryce’s personal friendship with Foley in attack ads that aired on Christian and conservative radio stations. Pryce’s slim victory remained in limbo until a recount in December, after which Kilroy immediately began preparing for a rematch. But Pryce decided to retire, and Kilroy had to shift to a new opponent. The GOP nominee was state Sen. Steve Stivers, who like Pryce, was a moderate Republican and backed abortion rights. He had impressive political and military credentials as well: five years in the Ohio Senate and service in the Ohio Army National Guard, including a stint in Iraq. Kilroy seized on Stivers’s résumé prior to being elected to the Legislature, when he was a lobbyist for Bank One. Lobbyists were unpopular with voters in 2008 because several prominent members of Congress had been tainted by their association with self-interested lobbyists. And as the election neared, the economy was slipping into recession, in part as a result of widespread bad lending practices by banks and mortgage companies. The DCCC, which invested heavily in the race, also attacked Stivers for his association with the financial industry. Stivers cited his work on behalf of Medicaid recipients with disabilities, criticized Kilroy for raising taxes locally, and said that she would impose government-run health care. He also got support from local veterans groups. Each candidate spent more than $2 million.
Stivers led in the initial results. But after rulings by the Secretary of State and court challenges of provisional ballots, Kilroy was certified the winner by 2,312 votes—a 45.9% victory over Stivers’s 45.2%. He won easily in the suburban counties, with 58% in Madison County and 62% in Union County, but they cast only 13% of the total. Kilroy won Franklin County by almost 15,000 votes. She was helped by two third-party candidates: college instructor Don Eckhart, an anti-abortion conservative who siphoned off 4.3% of the vote among Christian conservatives, and Libertarian Mark Noble, who got 4.6%. Stivers’s loss was a blow to the prestige of GOP House Minority Leader John Boehner, the powerful Ohioan who had personally recruited him to run for the seat. Republicans promised to make Kilroy a top target in 2010.