Brown parent battles incumbent in Ohio House race

By
Saturday, January 20, 2007

Rosa Handelman ’07 knows just how stressful a midterm can be. Her mother, Mary Jo Kilroy, is locked in a down-to-the-wire contest with incumbent Republican Deborah Pryce in Ohio’s 15th Congressional district. The race is pivotal to the Democrats’ push to take control of the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm Congressional elections.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN.com and other national media organizations have rated Ohio’s 15th district a “toss up” race, meaning it could go to either contender. Pryce, who was elected to a seventh term in 2004 with 60 percent of the vote, has not previously faced such a serious challenge.

Kilroy is a Democrat currently serving her second term as commissioner of Franklin County, which includes the city of Columbus and surrounding area and encompasses the 15th district. Previously, she served for eight years on the Columbus Board of Education.

Handelman, a history and visual arts concentrator and a member of the sketch comedy group Out of Bounds, said she is excited about her mother’s campaign. She worked for the campaign this summer and returned to Ohio to help during the weekend of Oct 21-22.

She plans to fly home today to assist in what she calls an “all-out get-out-the-vote campaign” and will stay through Election Day next Tuesday.

“It was great to have Rosa here for two-thirds of the summer helping out with the campaign,” Kilroy said. “For me as a candidate, it was very nice to have that sort of family support close by. … I’m glad she’s going to be home for Election Day and the final push.”

Although Handelman grew up around political campaigns, she said she “had no idea running for Congress was this big.”

“It’s kind of bizarre when people are picketing your mom,” Handelman said. “(Pryce supporters) even did … some kind of orchestrated dance with vacuums outside of the courthouse in Columbus. I don’t know what they were saying exactly, something about taxes.” Handelman said seeing her mother’s picture in the New York Times was another notable first.

The race between Kilroy and Pryce, who is the fourth-ranking member of the Republican leadership in the House, has drawn national attention because it reflects rising public dissatisfaction with current Republican leadership.

Kilroy’s campaign has focused on Pryce’s support of the Bush administration and her ties to Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., who resigned Sept. 29 amid allegations that he sent sexually explicit messages to underage Congressional pages. Republican leaders in the House have come under scrutiny for mishandling the Foley situation.

In September, just before allegations of his inappropriate conduct emerged, Pryce told a local magazine she considers Foley a friend in Washington. She has voted with President Bush 88 percent of the time, according to Kilroy’s Web site.

Kilroy said she has been able to challenge Pryce where others have not because Pryce’s previous opponents lacked experience and because of recent scandals that have plagued Republicans, both in Ohio and nationally.

“Voters here are concerned,” she said. “They don’t like the direction that Congress is taking the country.”

“It’s an important race,” said Darrell West, professor of political science and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy. “Control of the House is going to come down to districts like this one.”

West said recent corruption scandals involving Republicans in Congress have “cast doubt on the whole leadership,” including Pryce.

“Democrats have sought to nationalize these campaigns,” West said. “Democrats are running as much against Bush and the national Republican Party as individual opponents.”

Handelman said her friends at Brown are excited about her mother’s candidacy, and some of them and their families have donated money to the campaign.

Alison Schouten ’08, a friend of Handelman’s, said she is excited that Kilroy is running, and she is impressed by Handelman’s commitment to her mother’s campaign. “It’s really important to her,” Schouten said. “It’s obvious that she really believes in the work her mom is doing.”