Darrell Opfer's bid to return to the Ohio House of Representatives more than seven years after he resigned apparently succumbed yesterday to the re-election campaign of two-term incumbent Jeff Wagner, who in unofficial results defeated the Oak Harbor Democrat handily.
Even not counting returns from Mr. Opfer's home base in Ottawa County, which were unavailable early today, Mr. Wagner (R., Sycamore) appeared to have built an insurmountable lead by carrying 61 percent of the votes from Sandusky and western Seneca counties, the remainder of the 75th House District that the two were contesting.
During Mr. Opfer's 1993-1999 stint in Columbus, he represented Ottawa and Erie counties, a district with a much more solid Democratic vote than that in which he now resides - a change wrought by post-2000 redistricting that shifted Oak Harbor and its nearby townships into a more Republican territory. In 1999, when he left office to head the Ottawa County Improvement Corp., he was succeeded by Chris Redfern, a Catawba Island Democrat who now is state party chairman.
Mr. Redfern carried Erie County by 18,519 to 11,185 in his re-election bid yesterday against Republican challenger Edward Enderie of Huron, but awaited results from his home county.
Democrats kept their Statehouse dominance in metropolitan Toledo yesterday, but Republicans continued to dominate the countryside, with all results unofficial.
Early returns showed Democrats Edna Brown and Peter Ujvagi easily keeping their seats, and newcomer Matt Szollosi, a Democrat, holding a big lead over Republican Steve Hornyak in the 49th District.
Republican Mark Wagoner also appeared likely to retain his seat representing the western half of Lucas County.
State Sen. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon), term-limited in his current seat, moved down to the five-county 75th House District and defeated Democrat Angie Byrne, 24,584 to 19,070, while the GOP's Bruce Goodwin captured the 74th District in Defiance, Fulton, and Williams counties, 21,789 to 17,983, over Democrat Ben McCullough.
In the 76th House District, Republican Cliff Hite held a commanding 18,399 to 11,452 lead over Democrat John Kostyo after tallying votes from Hancock and Auglaize counties, with Hardin County results still to come.
The region's most hotly contested House race pitted Republican Dan White and Democrat Matthew Barrett for the 58th District seat in Huron, Lorain, and Seneca counties. Mr. White of Norwalk was appointed earlier this year to replace Kathleen Walcher Reed, but unofficially lost to Mr. Barrett by fewer than 350 votes: 16,762 to 16,337.
In regional senate races, State Rep. Steve Buehrer (R., Delta) held an early lead last night in his bid to succeed Mr. Wachtmann in the 1st District seat, representing all or parts of eight counties in Ohio's northwest corner. Mr. Buehrer was battling Ben Nienberg, a Democrat from Glandorf, for the seat.
State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) was unopposed in her re-election bid in the 11th District.
The 13th District, which includes Huron and Lorain counties and eastern Seneca county, was poised to change party hands. Democrat Susan Morano and Republican Susan Wise contested the seat held by term-limited Jeffry Armbruster (R., Ridgeville). With Huron and Lorain counties tallied, Ms. Morano held a 23,000-vote lead.