Chabot Fights Off A Tough Challenge, Returning To House As Minority Member

Howard Wilkinson, WVXU

It was supposed to be one of the closest U.S. House races in the country, but, in the end, veteran Republican congressman Steve Chabot won a relatively easy victory over Democrat Aftab Pureval in Ohio's 1st Congressional District.

Chabot had nearly 52 percent of the unofficial vote count to 46 percent for Pureval, who came out of nowhere two years ago to win the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts office.

Chabot said he understands that it will be different going back to a House where he will now be in the minority.

"We're going to continue to work for policies to keep this economy moving in the right direction, which means lower taxes, especially on the middle class; it means reducing the regulations so that this economy continues to boom,'' Chabot said.

Pureval quieted the crowd at his election night party after they began booing when he said he had told conceded to Chabot.

"We have to come together as a country in a positive and substantive way,'' he said. "So, I called Congressman Chabot and told him, 'Congratulations' and that I'm rooting for him to make a difference in this next term."

"This campaign has always been about ending the dysfunction and toxicity in our government,'' Pureval said. "The best way we can do this is to come together as a state, as a congressional district and continue fighting for change."

Democrats believed from the start that they had a window of opportunity in Ohio's 1st District, which takes in much of Hamilton County and all of Warren County.

One thing that gave them hope: of all the congressional districts Donald Trump won in 2016, his margin of victory was smallest in the 1st District – 6.6 percent.

And Democrats had Pureval – the 37-year-old son of Indian and Tibetan immigrants, and a lawyer who once worked for Procter & Gamble. He was considered the kind of energetic young candidate who could compete with Chabot, who has held on to the seat all but two of the past 24 years.

Not only was this one of the most closely watched House races in the country by the Inside-the-Beltway punditry, it was one of the nastiest mud-slinging, street fight this region has seen in many a day.

Both candidates were guilty throughout the campaign of throwing sometimes spurious charges at each other, but the veteran Chabot nearly had the market cornered with the help of millions of dollars in TV ads attacking Pureval from the Conservative Leadership Fund (CLF), a Super PAC headed by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

One CLF ad implied that Pureval, as a young lawyer, was part of a Washington lobbying firm hired by Libyan terrorists who were responsible for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The firm Pureval worked for negotiated a financial settlement with the government to pay restitution to the victims of the terrorist bombing. The fact is, Pureval had nothing to do with that case.

Morever, he was a six-year-old living in Beavercreek, Ohio, when the plane was blown out of the sky.

Candidates and their campaigns are not allowed to coordinate messages with independent expenditure groups like CLF, but given the opportunity to denounce a multitude of attack ads produced by Ryan's group, the Chabot campaign had nothing to say.

The CLF issued a note of congratulations to Chabot Tuesday night, pointing out that the Super PAC had spent $3.9 million on the race and made $1.1 million voter contacts.

Pureval's campaign had its own troubles, with an allegation by the Ohio Republican Party and the Hamilton County Republican Party that a young man associated with Pureval's campaign infiltrated the Chabot campaign and accessed its campaign database.

There is a pending charge against Pureval before the Ohio Elections Commission over that alleged incident. It will be heard by the commission in December.

It created instant turmoil within Pureval's campaign. His campaign manager, Sarah Topy, was allowed to resign, while Pureval fired two other staff members. He won't say why he took those actions, but they were clearly related to the allegation of someone infiltrating Chabot's campaign.

Chabot had more help from Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), which filed charges with the Ohio Elections Commission against Pureval in August claiming that he had used about $30,000 in money from his Hamilton County Clerk of Courts campaign to launch his congressional campaign. Money from a state campaign can't be used in a federal campaign.

Last Thursday after a six-hour hearing in Columbus, nearly all the charges of illegal campaign spending were dismissed by the Ohio Elections Commission.

The only charge which held up was the spending of $360 in money from the clerk of courts account to pay a photographer to shoot Pureval's campaign kick-off in January.

The commission imposed a $100 fine on the campaign.

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