DAYTON — Theresa Gasper — a Beavercreek resident who has spent much of her adult life rehabbing residences in her childhood neighborhood in Dayton— is running for Ohio’s 10th U.S. House District in the upcoming Democratic primary.
Gasper faces Democratic candidate Robert Klepinger, who has pulled a petition in Montgomery County, and Michael Milisits, who has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission, in the May 8 primary election. The victor is expected to face Congressman Mike Turner, a Republican, in November.
The 10th district includes all of Montgomery and Greene counties and part of Fayette County.
A former Republican, Gasper said she believes the Republican Party moved away from her values beginning in 2004. In 2008, she voted for President Obama after reading his book, “Audacity of Hope.”
“I saw more and more people in the community who I respected and who were Republicans doing the same thing,” she said. “I realized I wasn’t the only one losing their mind: Either we all were, or we were all finding it.”
Gasper said she will focus her campaign on reaching the “politically homeless” who feel that the binary political system does not represent them.
She said her No. 1 issue is removing “dark money” from politics, but had much to say on other issues. She said Turner “came to the game late” on combating the opioid epidemic. (Turner’s office maintains he has been on the front lines fighting the public health emergency since 2013.)
She said her experience in buying a secretarial company and turning it into a executive suite company working with defense contractors gives her “a little more military experience than people would give me credit for otherwise.” (Turner is chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee.)
Gasper’s announcement marks her first foray into politics. Gasper runs Full Circle Development, a company that has focused on restoring Dayton’s South Park neighborhood. Her husband, Dave Gasper, sold an ATM software company to NCR Corp. in 1999, according to a Dayton Foundation profile of the couple.
Is the race competitive?
Turner has represented the district since 2003. He and Klepinger did not comment for this article.
The district is rated “Safe Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political analysis publication produced by the University of Virginia Center for Politics. The publication predicted the federal and gubernatorial 2012 election results with 97 percent accuracy.
However, Democrats are hoping for a “wave” in November campaigning against President Donald Trump and hope that leads to some unexpected Democratic wins.
“The district itself is more competitive on paper than Mike Turner’s performance would lead you to believe. I think he’s a strong incumbent,” said Kyle Kondik, the publication’s managing editor. “I think under the right circumstances it could be competitive.”
Turner has won all of his elections since 2002 with more than 58 percent of the vote.
Kondik, who authored the book “The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President,” said it is unlikely the publication would change the “Safe Republican” ranking based on Gasper’s announcement.
Not immediately clear is whether the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the official campaign arm of the House Democrats — will financially support Gasper’s candidacy.
“The DCCC has a very big playing field this year, so while they want to have as many credible candidates as possible … not everybody is going to get money from the DCCC,” Kondik said.
Gasper said she has met with DCCC officials in Washington in addition to meeting with Toledo’s Rep. Marcy Kaptur and fundraising powerhouse Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., who heads the DCCC’s “Heartland Engagement” team.
“They’ve been very, very helpful,” Gasper said, noting she’s “got to put up the numbers and show them that I’m serious. … They’re not going to prop me up, but they want to be the wind at my back. I’ve got to perform and show them I’m serious, and they’ll show me they’re serious.”
A DCCC spokesman did not comment for this article.