Tea Party Beats Ohio Democrat Chairman

It was a very good night for Republicans throughout the country.  It looks like nine Senate seats will switch into the GOP’s favor, as well as at least 12 house seats.  Ohio did not have competitive races at the top of the ticket, and Gov. Kasich certainly won his re-election very handily.  There are questions about turn-out and how they related to this election, but I’m not sure clear conclusions can be drawn.  Looking only at raw votes, Kasich only gained 33K more votes while the Democrat had about 880K fewer.  That’s almost a million fewer votes in 2014 than in 2010.  Also, 88K voters made decisions on other races but left the Governor race blank, which was the recommendation of many of the Tea Parties in Ohio.

The biggest news of the night was Tea Party candidate Steve Kraus running against and beating the Democrat Chairman Chris Redfern.

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/news/politics/6185231
http://www.portclintonnewsherald.com/story/news/politics/elections/2014/11/04/kraus-redfern-face-th-district/18487687/

Ohio’s 89th district includes Erie and Ottawa counties, which Barack Obama won with about 53% and is represented in parts by both Marcy Kaptur and Jim Jordan.  The Ohio Republican Party did NOT put up a candidate during the months before the filing deadline and for much of the year never looked twice at this race.  When some polls came out showing that Redfern was vulnerable, the GOP again flinched when they saw that Kraus was solidly backed by the Tea Party.  For those who think that the job of the Republican Party is to support Republicans, that is not the case in Ohio.  The party is very much in the back pocket of John Kasich and the political gurus around him, and they have allies in the Ohio House, Senate, and the Supreme Court.  (Justice Judy French stated that her job on the Ohio Supreme Court included acting as a “backstop” for the GOP agenda – http://www.dispatch.com/content/blogs/the-daily-briefing/2014/10/10-25-14-french-remarks.html).  Kraus won this race as a Republican but without the help of the Ohio GOP.

Out of the 99 Ohio House seats, the Republican advantage grew from 60 seats to 65 after this election.  The Senate remains the same with a 23-10 GOP advantage.  The new House members, including Steve Kraus, are a bit more conservative than the previous makeup and are less likely to bow to the cronyism inside the Republican Party.  This can only be a good thing for Ohio, and may serve as a counterpoint to any progressive policies that John Kasich may promote as he considers the feasibility of a presidential run.

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Ohio’s One Week Preview

Well there hasn’t been much excitement this election season as no changes are predicted.  The only unlikely surprise next Tuesday will be a Kasich victory of less than 5 points.  The Democrat challenger Ed FitzGerald has run a hapless campaign with zero help from the national party and has never come within 10 points in polling.  Still, true-blue Democrats and union members (although Kasich has received more union support than he did four years ago) will still turn out for their party.  Secondly, some Tea Parties are endorsing a no-vote on the Gubernatorial race.  Kasich has run with Medicaid expansion defending it on compassionate and even religious grounds.  He has also been very aloof on questions regarding Common Core, denying that it’s a problem while supporting School Board candidates who are supportive of it.  Kasich has also decreased Ohio’s debt while increasing government spending.  For fiscal conservatives, these present a problem which lead to Tea Party opposition.  But Kasich doesn’t care, and I believe this race will be called by 8pm.  Democrat-heavy Cuyahoga County is habitually late in turning in results, and Kasich better have his 5-10 point lead by then or else we might be in for a stunner.

The house races, gerrymandered as they are, are not going to be competitive.  The single unlikely exception might be the David Joyce race which had the strongest Tea Party challenge in May.  His northeastern-most district is used to pro-government Republicans with Joyce and his predecessor Steve LaTourette, but the blue-collar campaign of Michael Wager has been modestly strong.  LaTourette’s daughter, by the way, is running for Ohio House in the Republican stronghold of Geauga County.  But party will trump personality, and I expect these two GOP establishment-types to win, as will all existing GOP and Democrat officeholders.

RobPortman: the Political Class

I received a fundraising letter from Rob Portman the other day, and am ethically prohibited from sending him any money.  One reason is that, like the median family in America, my net worth has dropped significantly over the last ten years.  This covers the Obama administration and certainly the Bush administration.  A pox on BOTH houses.

Even if I had expendable cash though, would I get my money’s worth from Rob Portman?  Well the NRSC certainly hasn’t gotten any of my money.  I made THAT decision years ago when they backed future Democrats Arlen Specter and Lincoln Chaffee.  And then again the NRSC implicitly supported future Democrat Charlie Crist and Democrat favorite Mike Castle.  (While they may not have explicitly supported them, their contributors and their supporters certainly did.)  Later, Karl Rove said he was staying out of the Texas Senate runoff because there was no difference between David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz.  So Dewhurst would have keynoted CPAC?

Lastly, and directly involving Rob Portman, is the support for Thad Cochran in Mississippi.  There is no reason that an honest Republican should support the less articulate conservative, the less energetic conservative, or the less mainstream conservative.  The only thing that Thad Cochran has in his favor is his connection to Washington DC.  For Rob Portman, this is all that counts.

The political class in Washington knows nothing about party – Democrats and Republicans are equally welcome.  They have the singular interest of self-preservation and they have the wherewithal to do it.  While median incomes of all US families has gone down, the incomes of Fairfax, Howard, and Loudon Counties have all gone up.  In fact, the median income in those counties is nearly DOUBLE that of the US median income!  So while Portman and Republicans and Democrats campaign for the middle class, it is simply an Alinsky tactic.  The political class is taking money from those of us trying to get ahead, and keeping it themselves.

For twenty years Rob Portman has been campaigning for fiscal sanity and for pro-growth policies.  Well if he is in fact trying to promote those things then he’s not doing a good job at it!  For over twenty years in the House, in the Bush administration, and now in the Senate, Portman has passed on opportunities to help the middle class IN FAVOR of helping the political class.  One of the principle checks that the legislative has over the executive is the expenditure of funds, and time and again Rob Portman sides with Chuck Schumer over Mike Lee.  That is not a role that an honest Republican should take.

Portman must keep the funds of the government flowing because the government is his priority.  His resume stinks of the establishment.  He is gaining a higher profile as this year has gone on, and with the GOP Convention coming to Ohio there is chatter as to whether he should run.  My mind is open and I might certainly think about supporting him over Hillary or Warren, but I promise you that he is Lucy with the football.  He is all talk.  He has talked for all of his twenty years in Washington, and the fiscal mess that he derides has only gotten worse.  He has neither the courage nor the capabilities, and most importantly he lacks the will to change course.

Ohio’s Updated House Races

A few things have happened since last month’s post about the Ohio Congressional races.  First of all, Isaac Quinones II had withdrawn his challenge to Marcy Kaptur and instead put it in to face Jim Renacci.  Then, Quinones withdrew from that race and is returning to DC to finish college.  Maybe we’ll hear from him at a later date.

It seems Democrats have filed for races against Gibbs and Renacci, and Republicans have filed against Fudge and Beatty, so there will be no uncontested races in 2014.  (In 2012, Boehner and Fudge were both the only candidate on their respective ballots.)  I still see Joyce and Johnson as the most vulnerable Republicans, with Joyce being a bit more vulnerable than Johnson.  Well the Tea Party has smelled Joyce’s blood in this district’s water and they’ve been waiting for this fight!

State Sen. Matt Lynch has been a frequent speaker at Tea Party events and he has filed to challenge Joyce.  Not coincidentally, Steve “ChuckleHead” LaTourette’s daughter had previously filed to challenge Lynch for the State Senate, so Lynch decided to run for Steve’s old seat and beat his hand-picked successor.  Like LaTourette, David Joyce has a weak Heritage Score and will certainly be vulnerable in a primary fight.  If the Tea Parties in Northeast Ohio can GOTV in the primary, then there will be one less non-conservative Republican in Congress.

Also if Lynch wins, nobody has any illusions that he will have an easy race to Washington.  The Democrats already have this district as a potential pickup with the incumbent Joyce running as a Republican.  With Lynch, this district will instantly move to “TossUp” or even “Lean D.”  Nevertheless, I think more conservatives are willing to fight and lose Congressional and Senate races as opposed to not fighting and losing with a weak Republican.

Ohio House Races: 2014

As Obama was winning the state in 2012, Ohio sent 12 Republicans to Congress and only 4 Democrats.  Having been in charge of the redistricting process, Republicans squeezed the most liberal parts of the state into long and winding districts from Toledo to Cleveland (Kaptur), Cleveland to Akron (Fudge), and Akron to Youngstown (Tim Ryan), and then gave the Democrats the inner parts of Columbus (Beatty).  Each of these Democrats won with 70-80%  of the vote.  Republicans made up the rest, most of whom won with about 55-65% of the vote.

Republicans do not seem to have any primary opponents with the exception of John Boehner.  If there was only one challenger, this district might be worth a good look.  Democrats might give this district a good fight, but this is an extremely conservative part of the rural southwest.  In the primary this May, however, there will be THREE challengers to Boehner which will guarantee a Boehner victory.  Ohio needs to change to a runoff system like Texas to eliminate spoiler candidates and force the leader to take on a challenger one-on-one.  As it is, Boehner simply needs to win a plurality which he is certain to do.

The Democrats may have an interesting primary with a young Isaac Quinones II taking on the long-serving Kaptur.  Kaptur’s district stretches far away from her base in Toledo, and Democrats in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties may choose the young gun over the dean of the Ohio delegation.

Looking towards November’s general election, Renacci and Gibbs, who otherwise may have been moderately vulnerable, do not currently have Democrat challengers.  The two seats most likely to flip to the Democrats seem to be those of David Joyce and Bill Johnson, both in northeast Ohio.  Joyce had taken over the seat of Steve LaTourette, a GOP moderate if ever there was one.  Joyce has not done anything of note in his first term, and the Democrats are hoping to make this a competitive race.

Bill Johnson represents the eastern Ohio river region which have historically been the most purple counties in Ohio.  If Democrats could swing these counties, then they would likely win a statewide race.  This wasn’t true in 2008 and 2012 though, as Obama’s margins in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton were so wide that he could afford to lose these voters to the Republican.  His challenger will be an experienced state representative so this might be a race to watch.

In the end though, I don’t foresee any change coming in this election.  These four northeast Ohio Republicans (Gibbs, Renacci, Joyce, and Johnson) have the seats that are most likely to flip if there is a strong Democrat surge in the next decade.

The Tea Party Flop

In the two months since my last post, the Tea Party faction of the Republican party rightfully decided to mount a primary challenge to John Kasich.  Ted Stevenot is a conservative grassroots leader and was willing to suffer the slings and arrows of a “hopeless” campaign against a “popular” sitting governor.  Well, maybe not.  (Kasich Catches a Break)

If given the choice between making a primary challenge versus voting a principled third-party, I would choose the primary 99 times out of 100.  Some Tea Party members (who weren’t enamored with the Republican party anyway) are willing to go third party instead of supporting John Kasich.  Former Republican Congressman Charlie Earl is running as a Libertarian and would likely take a few thousand votes away from Kasich, possibly allowing the Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald to win.  Instead I prefer a primary, and was excited about the potential Stevenot race.  He likely would have lost, but it would have forced Kasich to regularly address the concern of conservative voters.

Additionally, the elected GOP in Columbus acted unconstitutionally when they disallowed third parties to petition for the ballot.  (Libertarians Win Challenge).  So its back to Plan B for conservatives who will need to decide how they feel about their governor.  Kasich has risen in popularity with his support of Medicaid Expansion, but will this translate into votes?  Are Ted Strickland voters going to flip to Kasich?  How much abandonment can Kasich afford from those who voted for him in 2010?

I think by November, Kasich will win by maybe three points instead of two.  He will likely be asked about his national intentions for 2016, either as a candidate himself (he ran for President very briefly in 2000) or as a Vice-Presidential pick.  And if the Ohio Tea Party is smart, they’ll bring up Obamacare Expansion and how it was enacted without the approval of the legislature, and they’ll bring up the establishment mentality that tried to restrict choices on the ballot, then they’ll concede that Kasich is better than Fitzgerald, but then for 2016 they’ll point to Wisconsin and say “There is your Midwest Governor.”

Will Kasich be the Cuccinelli of 2014?

How is Terry MacAuliffe going to win the Virginia Governor race with less than 50% of the vote?  Because the Libertarian will suck just enough votes away from the Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli.  It’s no surprise that John Kasich and his team have just as many tea leaves as I have sitting in my underwear in my parent’s basement, and they are worried about their conservative wing.  Kasich won the big Tea Party year of 2010, the year that Ohio sent FIVE Democrat Congressmen packing, by only 80,000 votes which is just 2%.  He didn’t even get 50% because the Libertarian and Green parties pulled in 150,000 votes or about 4%.  Kasich and his team think they will LOSE in 2014 and are pulling the levers NOW to prevent that from happening.  As an example, the Ohio Republican Senate has passed a bill preventing third-party candidates from getting on the ballot next year – https://www.toledoblade.com/Politics/2013/10/09/Ohio-Senate-approves-minor-party-bill.html.

Now there is the power of incumbency, and Kasich will have the support of the loyal Republicans who supported him last year.  But Tea Party members are a bunch of rascals if ever there was one.  We don’t care about the agree-with-me-80%-of-the-time meme.  For us, there is a single litmus test.  Do you support an EXPANSION of government, or not?  There is little room for error on this, and Governor Kasich has unfortunately failed this test.

The two big items that have Tea Party members’ hair in a bun are Common Core and Medicaid Expansion.  Common Core is the national education plan that is being pushed by progressives on the left and on the right with possible 2016 candidate Jeb Bush leading the charge.  But Medicaid Expansion has been the biggest newsmaker in recent weeks, and (Spoiler Alert) the Governor recently received a congratulations phone call from Valerie Jarrett.  For a Republican, that’s called “doing it wrong.”

The Ohio Legislature decided against Medicaid Expansion after considering the pressure it received from those in favor and from those against.  Instead of taking “No” for an answer, Kasich went to the executive branch Controlling Board and got their permission to spend federal Obamacare money on Medicaid Expansion.  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/ohio-medicaid-expansion_n_4138618.html)  Now this is a common tactic in Obama’s federal government and is probably illegal, so some legislative members have sued the Governor to prevent this money from being spent – http://www.wfmj.com/story/23764355/lawsuit-challenges-expansion-of-ohio-medicaid-program.  It is sad to see a Republican governor to go around the will of the legislature, but that’s exactly what he’s done!

This fight will go on for the rest of 2013 and certainly through some of 2014.  But I expect John Kasich will find a lonely summer and fall as he campaigns throughout Ohio.  A number of conservatives in Ohio will push hard for Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate as well as for members of the cabinet (all of whom are running for re-election), but they will not work for the Governor.  They may write in the name of Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl or they may not vote at all, but John Kasich CANNOT win without Tea Party support and he will find that out next year.