In May 2010, Craig Schweitzer came in second to Andrew Brenner in the Republican primary election.
Schweitzer, the owner of Columbus business Outdoor Living by Mr. Mulch, hopes to improve on his performance this time around.
Schweitzer, 40, of Liberty Township screened last Friday for an endorsement in his bid for state representative from the Delaware County Republican Party. He has not filed his official paperwork but also held a fundraiser Friday and told the Gazette he is in.
“I feel I have a passion for the Statehouse,” Schweitzer said.
Brenner, now the incumbent state representative from Powell, also screened with the county GOP last Friday.
In Republican-dominated Delaware County, challenging an incumbent can be politically risky; the local Republican Party generally tries to ensure people in elected office stay there.
But in short, Schweitzer thinks he has support, and stands a good chance at winning the primary election, he said.
“Yes, he (Brenner) is vulnerable,” Schweitzer said.
Part of Schweitzer’s confidence comes from how he performed in the 2010 Republican primary, in which six candidates sought an open state representative seat. Schweitzer, in his first foray into politics, lost by 282 votes to Brenner, then a multiple-term Delaware County recorder.
While he didn’t win, Schweitzer performed well in the vote-rich southwestern Delaware County precincts near his home. He won most of the precincts in Liberty and Orange Township, many by wide margins, as well as some Orange Township precincts.
Schweitzer thinks new legislative lines that redefine Brenner’s district will only work in his favor. The newly-renumbered 67th house district drops eastern Delaware County, where Brenner enjoyed strong support in 2010, thanks in part to his involvement with the Eastern Delaware County Republican Club.
In contrast, Schweitzer has lived in the Olentangy school district since 1997 and has kids attending school there. He thinks this gives him an edge up over Brenner, who grew up in Kingston Township and lived in Delaware city before moving to Powell two years ago.
“From the numbers standpoint, the way the new district is defined, I win,” Schweitzer said. “If you go count raw votes last time using the new lines, I beat him by 200 to 300 votes.”
As Brenner sees it, he has lived in the new 67th district longer than Schweitzer has, he told the Gazette in an email.
“Mr. Schweitzer clearly does not know my background. I went to elementary school (in the Buckeye Valley school system) within the 67th district — that’s how far back my roots go within this district. I have been a Delaware County resident since 1971 (when I was born),” Brenner said.
Schweitzer also expects to benefit from his unsuccessful election effort, emerging as a more experienced and savvy politician. He has learned from his 2010 campaign, and has since formed relationships with the Republican political establishment in Delaware County. He was selected an at-large member of the Delaware County Republican Party’s Executive Committee.
“The first time around, (the county GOP) had absolutely no idea who I was. But now I’ve built a lot of relationships and really gotten to know a lot of people. I think that’s critical,” Schweitzer said.
Schweitzer said he and Brenner don’t differ significantly on many political issues. He is hoping his strength of personality, business experience and involvement with the community will separate him.
“We’re both conservative Republicans. But the Statehouse as a state representative goes beyond that. It’s not just that you vote the right way. You have to lead,” Schweitzer said.
Brenner touted his own business record. Prior to his election as Delaware County recorder in 2004, he managed a mortgage business and owned a property management company with his father.
He said he has regularly met with business owners as a state representative, and supported business-friendly legislation while in office such as proposals to phase out the estate tax and the replacement of the Ohio Department of Development with JobsOhio.
“When I was Recorder, I led the county and State of Ohio in converting to (electronic filing of records), and have been one of the voices for pro-business, conservative legislation in the Ohio House. It’s one thing to say you’re a leader, and it’s another thing to have a long track record of sticking your neck out on issues to do what’s right. I have the latter,” Brenner said.