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A dozen Republicans and 2 Democrats are running to replace Brad Wenstrup in Congress

a man in a white button-up shirt, yellow tie and navy suit jacket gestures in front of a microphone with the american flag behind him
Manuel Balce Ceneta
Chairman Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, speaks during a House Select Subcommittee hearing on the Coronavirus pandemic investigation of the origins of COVID-19, Tuesday, April 18, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

As expected, an open U.S. House seat for one of the most heavily Republican districts in Ohio has drawn a double-digit crowd of GOP candidates for the March 7 primary election.

An even dozen Republican candidates filed petitions in southern Ohio's 15-county 2nd Congressional District by the Wednesday deadline.

Two Democrats will go head-to-head in the very red 2nd District.

It is the largest field of GOP candidates since a 2005 special election where 11 Republicans ran for the seat vacated by Rob Portman when he went to work for the Bush administration.

The seat is open because U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, the Iraq war veteran and podiatric surgeon who up-ended then-congresswoman Jean Schmidt in a GOP primary in 2012, has decided to end his run in the House and come back home to Highland County.

RELATED: Congressman Brad Wenstrup says he won't run for re-election in 2024

Wenstrup's 2nd congressional district spans a vast territory consisting of all or part of 15 southern Ohio counties, stretching out from Clermont County to Pike and Scioto counties in the east.

Eastern Hamilton County was drawn out of the district in 2012 and Wenstrup moved his voting address from his home in Columbia Tusculum to the family's home on Rocky Fork Lake in Highland County.

It is a district so heavily Republican that Donald Trump won over Joe Biden there by a 3-to-1 margin in 2020; and Wenstrup's re-election win in 2022 was just as big.

Wenstrup's retirement announcement on X on Nov. 9 set off a stampede of GOP candidates running to the Clermont County Board of Elections to pick up petitions. Some of them do not live in the 2nd District — it's not a requirement for holding a U.S. House seat.

They had to file their petitions by 4 p.m. Wednesday with the board of elections in Clermont County, the most populous county in the district.

The Republicans

Niraj Antoni – He represents Montgomery County in the Ohio Senate and lives in Miamisburg. Neither his hometown or his home county are in the 2nd Congressional District.

Kim Georgeton – She is the Hamilton County leader of Moms for Liberty, a national organization which focuses on school board races, running candidates who oppose DEI training and advocate banning books from school libraries. Georgeton, too, doesn't live in the district — she lives in Sycamore Township.

Phil Heimlich – The former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati City Council member is one of the rare Republicans who is speaking out against Trump and his takeover of the Republican Party. Heimlich's Sycamore Township home used to be in the 2nd District, but that is no longer the case.

Larry Kidd – He's well-known as a Jackson County Republican activist and was a convention delegate for Trump in 2016 and 2020. He has close ties to Wenstrup.

RELATED: How Wenstrup used Army surgeon skills to aid wounded congressman in 2017

Derek Myers – The Chillicothe Republican is editor of the Scioto Valley Guardian.

Tim O'Hara – The former Marine drill instructor from Hamersvillle in Brown County owns two LaRosa's restaurants.

David Taylor – He's a Clermont County business owner and an assistant county prosecutor. He recently won the endorsement of the Clermont County Republican Party.

Charles Tassell – He is a real estate investor and chairman of the Clermont County Republican Party. But he may step down soon, after the county party's executive committee passed over him and endorsed Taylor instead.

Shane Wilkin – He was a Highland County commissioner and state representative before becoming a state senator in a district that includes 10 southern Ohio counties.

Three GOP candidates who had not previously announced their candidacies also filed for the office by the Wednesday deadline. They are former state representative Ron Hood of Pickaway County, Tom Hwang, and Matthew Henderson.

The Democrats

Samantha Meadows – The Chillicothe Democrat was her party's nominee in 2022, taking on Wenstrup. She finished with 25.5% of the vote.

Joe Wessels – A former reporter and owner of his own public relations firm, he is a Loveland resident and was communications director for Democrat Steve Driehaus' 1st District congressional campaign in 2008.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.