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The Columbus Dispatch - Backing of Mayor Key to Win for Beatty: Redrawn District, Getting Her Voters to Polls Also Helped

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By David Eggert and Doug Caruso

Joyce Beatty is almost certain to be a congresswoman in 2013, for a few reasons.

She did a better job of getting her voters on her home turf to the polls, according to a Dispatch analysis, and held her own among Democratic voters living elsewhere in Columbus and other parts of Franklin County.

She also nabbed the endorsement of Mayor Michael B. Coleman.

"Had he not endorsed, Mary Jo Kilroy probably would have won the race," said Antoinette Wilson, a consultant for the campaign of Columbus City Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson, who finished third in the four-way Democratic primary for the new 3rd District.

"We did extraordinarily well in the target areas and well outside the target areas," Coleman said yesterday. "This was about Joyce Beatty really working hard and getting the job done. She had a good strategy, good targeting and a well-run campaign."

Although Coleman downplayed his role -- saying he "tried to be helpful where I could" -- he hosted a fundraiser for Beatty, appeared in her TV ads, recorded robocalls on her behalf and spent two hours making get-out-the-vote calls on Election Day.

Coleman's endorsement served to validate the Beatty campaign, according to her campaign manager, Greg Beswick. "He helped bolster our door-to-door efforts. Having him tell people, "You need to help Joyce Beatty,' a lot more people walked through the doors (of the campaign office) those days," Beswick said.

Assuming Beatty wins in November, Ohio is likely to have two African-Americans in its congressional delegation for the first time. Beatty, 61, would be the first black member of Congress from central Ohio.

That is no accident.

Republican state legislators last year drew the new 3rd District to include the second-largest black voting index among Ohio's 16 congressional districts, behind only the Cleveland-dominated 11th District.

A majority of Tuesday's vote went to Beatty (38 percent) and third-place finisher Tyson (15 percent), who also is black.

Kilroy, a former member of Congress, and state Rep. Ted Celeste, who are white, garnered 35 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

There had been concern in the Beatty camp that Tyson could siphon away enough votes to cost her the election. But that did not happen.

An analysis of the race shows that Beatty benefited from strong support in precincts on the East, Northeast and South sides that had the highest turnout. East Side residents were represented in the Ohio House by a Beatty -- either Joyce or, before then, her husband, Otto -- for 30 years until term limits caused her to leave for a newly created vice president job at Ohio State University at the end of 2008.

In Columbus Precinct 28-E, which votes at Berwick Elementary School on the East Side, Beatty received 291 votes, or 53 percent of the total. In that precinct, nearly a third of registered voters cast a ballot in the congressional primary, the biggest turnout of any precinct in the race.

In fact, Beatty won all but one of the 20 highest-turnout precincts in the district.

In the 20 precincts where Kilroy scored her highest margins, turnout didn't top 7 percent. A typical precinct was Jackson Township Precinct A, which votes at the township office south of Columbus. Kilroy took 93 percent of the vote, but just 2 percent of registered voters there took part in the primary. That earned Kilroy 13 votes.

One potential factor in the outcome was legislators' decision late last year to revise the congressional map. They added more black voters to the 3rd, and in the process stripped out potential supporters from Kilroy's home turf in Clintonville. The homes of Beatty and state Rep. Ted Celeste were included in the second map -- not the first -- while Kilroy's house was not.

One does not have to live in a district to represent it, and some thought that Kilroy would prevail because of her name recognition and the fact she was a U.S. House member in 2009-11 representing the nearby 15th District.

Lee Roberts, who managed Coleman's campaign for mayor last year, said he suspects that both Beatty and Tyson did better because of strong turnout in African-American precincts.

"A rising tide lifted both ships up," he said.

Beatty, who faces Republican Reynoldsburg City Councilman Chris Long in November, said she will continue in coming months to get her message out.

"We'll work with business and labor together so we can improve the economy and create jobs here in central Ohio," she said. "The new voice will be part of doing new things and bringing people together."

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