Taking Back the House: The Pryce of Loyalty

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This week, National Affairs Daily is rolling out the magazine's top-ten House races to watch in November. [Click here to read the introduction to the package.]

SEAT: OHIO's 15TH DISTRICT (Columbus)

INCUMBENT: Rep. Deborah Pryce (R, seven terms)

CHALLENGER: County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D)

TOP ISSUE: The Republican leadership

With Tom DeLay in political exile, the race against Pryce — the GOP's deputy whip and fourth-ranking member — represents the Democrats' best chance to make Republicans pay for the party's rampant corruption and unquestioning support of the president's far-right agenda.

Pryce not only spearheaded Bush's effort to privatize Social Security, she also benefited from at least ten fund-raisers hosted by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"More than any other seat in the nation, this race offers an opportunity to send George W. Bush a message," says Kilroy, who has a track record of winning in the district. "Deborah Pryce is not just a foot soldier — she's a general who has rubberstamped every bad idea to come out of the administration for the last six years."

In a normal year, a candidate of Pryce's stature would be expected to tout her high rank and close ties to the president. Instead, Pryce is omitting her party affiliation from her campaign ads — billing herself as an independent. "A lot of people are trying to run away from the Republican leadership and the president," says Van Hollen. "But it's very difficult for her to do."

The NRCC is so desperate to hold onto Pryce's seat that it has actually stooped to Red-baiting her opponent. "Kilroy is somebody that the National Committee for the Communist Party is promoting," says NRCC spokesman Carl Forti. Such charges are unlikely to play with voters, however: In her conservative pantsuits and silky blouses, Kilroy comes across more like a Midwestern CEO than a socialist firebrand.

She favors withdrawing American troops from Iraq — where the war has killed or wounded a third of the soldiers in the Marine reserve unit stationed in Columbus.

NEXT: Pennsylvania's 7th