Every election night has surprises, it seems. But perhaps one of the stranger results of Tuesday's primaries was William R. Smith's apparent victory in his run for the Democratic nomination in Ohio's 2nd District. Smith spent no money, did no campaigning, and local Democrats never spoke to him.
Smith, a 61-year-old long-distance truck driver from Pike County, beat out David Krikorian by a margin of 59 votes out of just over 20,000 cast according to the unofficial results. The narrow result will likely trigger an automatic recount once the results are made official. (Ohio triggers an automatic recount if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 0.25 percent.)
Smith ran in 2008 in the Democratic primary, also apparently spending no money, and won 12.5 percent of the vote. Krikorian had run in the overwhelmingly Republican district twice before, in 2008 as a non-partisan candidate and losing the Democratic nomination in 2010.
Caleb Faux, executive director of Hamilton County's Democratic Party, said he believed a super PAC made robo-calls tying Smith to President Barack Obama and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). The Cincinnati Enquirer got hold of a robo-call by the Victory Ohio Super PAC, which is not registered with the FEC:
William Smith has an opponent that describes himself as a Reagan conservative. William Smith’s opponent was already sanctioned by the Ohio Elections Commission for not telling the truth. Please don’t make a mistake and embarrass the party. Vote for William Smith, the real Democrat for Congress. This has been paid for by the Victory Ohio Super PAC
Krikorian told the Enquirer that an "an illegal act has taken place here."
The Ohio Elections Commission did reprimand Krikorian for accusing Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) of taking "blood money" from the Turkish government to deny the Armenian genocide. Schmidt has also filed a defamation lawsuit -- which is still pending -- for $6.8 million in damages.
Schmidt also lost her seat Tuesday in a primary to Brad Wenstrup by a 49 to 43 percent margin. A little-known super PAC -- albeit, one registered with the FEC -- contributed to her loss. The Campaign for Primary Accountability Super PAC, which says it takes on incumbents from both parties, spent more than $200,000 against her. Robo-calls also had an effect in the race, reported The Huffington Post's Matt Sledge:
That kind of call in the waning days of a low-turnout primary race can have an impact, said Patrick Miller, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati.
"Especially in her race, where it's low information and there are very few messages that are actually out there, I think that advertising could certainly have helped tilt the election against her," he said.
It's not far-fetched to think that such a dynamic could have played out in the Democratic primary.
Smith spoke on the phone to WLWT News 5 but said he didn't have a picture to provide the station. "I knew it would take a miracle, because I haven't really done anything," he said. "I think the politicians and pundits don't give the common people credit."