- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Nearly everyone in the crowded Republican presidential field is preparing to battle for Ohio’s delegates, not conceding to Gov. John Kasich on his home field.

Twelve candidates including outsider contenders Donald Trump and Ben Carson filed delegate slates for the March 15 primary. Five Democrats including front-runner Hillary Clinton also filed by Wednesday’s deadline for their party’s presidential primary.

Kasich has good favorability ratings as the state’s second-term governor. But he’s among several candidates struggling to gain enough traction for their campaigns to remain viable by the time the race comes to Ohio - and to still be alive when Cleveland hosts the national GOP convention in July.

But if you think the presidential race is crowded, consider the U.S. House district in western Ohio vacated by former Speaker John Boehner: 20 candidates, 17 of them Republicans, filed.

Some highlights:

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DANCE OF THE DELEGATES

Former U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, former state Attorney General Betty Montgomery and a number of past and present federal and state officeholders joined Kasich’s delegate lineup.

Some out-of-state candidates are lining up support from Ohio activists, too.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who already had the backing of state Treasurer Josh Mandel, has a host of elected and party officials for delegates including Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell and Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer. The wife of Sen. Rob Portman’s campaign manager also jumped on board.

High-profile Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters is on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s slate.

Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Rand Paul didn’t file full delegate slates, which could indicate lackluster support in the battleground state. Former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore didn’t file for Ohio’s primary.

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DEMOCRATS SEE “TRUMP EFFECT” OPPORTUNITY

Democrats aren’t leaving any Republican congressional incumbents unchallenged, despite a Republican-drawn House map weighted against them.

Democratic Chairman David Pepper said it’s partly “the Trump effect” - a sense that the billionaire businessman’s nomination would seriously divide the GOP for November.

“There’s been so much attention to Trump affecting turnout so much and badly hurting the down-ticket races that we might win districts that were drawn for us not to win,” Pepper said.”

Republican Chairman Matt Borges attributed the Democratic congressional challenges to nervousness in the party about Hillary Clinton. But he didn’t dispute that a Trump candidacy could hurt other Republicans.

“Donald Trump’s message is too divisive to carry Ohio, so unless his message changes, we’re going to have to change candidates,” said Borges, a Kasich supporter. “The only thing standing between Republicans and the White House is ourselves.”

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AFTER BOEHNER, A BALLOT BUFFET

After nearly 25 years of Boehner as their congressman, voters in the 8th U.S. House district have a ballot buffet in the unusual double primary.

“We’re as surprised as you are,” said Diane Noonan, Butler County elections director. “Everybody just decided to throw their hat into the ring.”

Boehner repeatedly won in landslides after his first race in 1990. The candidates to succeed him include 17 Republicans, one Democrat, one Green Party candidate, and a candidate who is running in the Constitution Party in one primary and as a Libertarian in the other.

They all filed for both of the two races: to complete the term the former U.S. House speaker vacated and for a new two-year term.

Among the better-known GOP candidates are Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds, state Sen. Bill Beagle and state Rep. Tim Derickson, along with teacher J.D. Winteregg, who challenged Boehner in the 2014 primary.

And among first-time candidates for elective office is James Spurlino, founder of a Middletown-based construction materials company with concrete plants in three states.

In a year in which several outsiders are contenders for president, Spurlino touts “real world” experience compared to “the professional politicians.”

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Sewell reported from Cincinnati.

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