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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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.

Ohio Governor Race Takes Shape

Some high-profile Democrats have chosen not to run for Governor in 2014, leaving Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald as the most likely challenger to John Kasich.  Congressman Tim Ryan and former Congresswoman Betty Sutton announced that they will stay on the bench for the time being, maybe waiting to challenge Rob Portman in 2016.  Despite the Governor’s recent decision to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program which angered many conservatives, there will be no viable challenger from the right to John Kasich’s nomination.

Ed Fitzgerald is Cuyahoga County’s first County Executive.  The county had previously been run by three County Commissioners and the office was riddled with scandal and corruption.  (Read more about Auditor Frank Russo and Commissioner Jimmy DiMora to get the details.)  Select leaders in the county began a process to redesign the structure of power, and decided on an 11-member County Council based on 11 different regions in the county, and then a single County Executive.  The decision of this structure was not unanimous and there were detractors to the idea of a single executive, including Lakewood Mayor Ed Fitzgerald!

The voters approved this strategy, and then candidates began surfacing for the 2010 election and Fitzgerald had a few cries of hypocrisy thrown at him when, after opposing the position’s creation, he announced as a candidate for Executive.  The Democrats fielded four candidates, but Fitzgerald was the most well-known and was supported by many in the Democrat Party and won the primary with 49% of the vote.  The GOP voters selected former Ohio Representative Matt Dolan, but due to dissatisfaction with both Fitzgerald and Dolan, the November election also included a self-funded businessman Ken Lanci and another independent candidate, former Democrat Commissioner Tim McCormick.  Despite the County’s 70% support for Democrat presidential candidates, Fitzgerald only received 45% of the vote, followed by Dolan at 31%, Lanci at 11%, and McCormick at 8%.  A Green Party candidate picked up the rest of the vote.

Fitzgerald will probably tout his effectiveness with improving the County’s image.  Well, I’m not sure people or businesses are flocking to Cuyahoga County, or even trickling into the county.  I also think the Democrats might do better by choosing somebody from a region other than Cleveland.  They won the Governorship in 2006 with Ted Strickland who lived in the southeast part of the state.  Before Strickland, the governor was Republican Bob Taft, and the governor before Taft was George Voinovich, the last Republican mayor of Cleveland.  Of those previous four elections (the two with Voinovich and the two with Taft), the Democrats picked three candidates from the Cleveland area.

For example the 2002 election similarly saw an incumbent Republican Governor Bob Taft facing Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan.  In 2002, Taft was a weak governor as some stories of state government incompetence were just beginning to surface.  I believe Taft could have been defeated.  I think if Ken Blackwell chose not to “wait his turn” and challenged him in a primary, he may have defeated Taft much like Sarah Palin would later defeat an incompetent sitting GOP Governor in Alaska.  Taft also could have lost to a more moderate candidate than Tim Hagan.  Hagan is an unabashed liberal who endorsed Ted Kennedy over Jimmy Carter in 1980, and is also married to Kate Mulgrew, Capt. Janeway in Star Trek Voyager, by the way.

Anyway, I’m not sure that Fitzgerald is a terribly strong candidate and I’m not that impressed with the Democrat bench.  If he weren’t enmeshed in Washington DC overseeing the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray would likely give Kasich the strongest challenge.  The Governor’s race will be the top race in 2014 as Ohio won’t have a Senate election, giving us a well-needed break from national politics.  Kasich margin of victory was one of the smallest in Ohio’s 2010 statewide elections, so I don’t think he will win this running away.  It will likely be a single-digit race throughout the campaign, and it’ll be interesting to see how are where these two candidates decide to spend their time.

Ohio and ObamaCare

Last November, Ohio had split on two important issues on the ballot.  Most of the chatter was Issue 2 which would have allowed a law mimicking Wisconsin’s public sector union restrictions although it included police and fire unions.  It failed 38-62.  Also on the ballot was Issue 3, a health care “independence” measure which was a pre-emptive strike against ObamaCare.  It passed 66-34.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is an Ohio-based non-profit which has written a piece here and recently re-iterated some of its major points and action steps given last week’s stunning Jon Roberts ruling, which can be found at the Supreme Court website.  The pull quote for me was in the dissent:

As for the constitutional power to tax and spend for the general welfare: The Court has long since expanded that beyond (what Madison thought it meant) taxing and spending for those aspects of the general welfare that the Federal Government’s enumerated powers, see United States v. Butler, 297 U. S. 1, 65–66 (1936).  Thus, we now have sizable federal Departments devoted to subjects not mentioned among Congress’ enumerated powers, and only marginally related to commerce: the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

From the recent 1851 Center e-mail, there are three things that need to happen at this moment.

  1. Stop Ohio from implementing state-based exchanges.  Kasich seems to be leaning this direction although there is considerable pressure from the left and from progressive-thinking Republicans in the Ohio Legislature to take the money to start these exchanges.  We need to find who our State Representatives and Senators are and make sure they oppose any movement supporting Obamacare, and keep Governor Kasich true to his conservative instincts.
  2. Stop Ohio from expanding Medicaid.  In 2011, Ohio joined other states in arguing against the Medicaid mandate and that decision went in our favor 7-2.  So like Cleveland fans who expect disappointment from their sports teams, Tea Party supporters have grown to expect Republicans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  We must explain to DeWine and Kasich that they have won and not to touch Medicaid until this storm blows over.
  3. Continue to mount a rights-based challenge.  This means that the Supreme Court decision mostly regards Congressional authority to impose such a mandate.   It has not decided on privacy rights or on freedom to associate issues, and these will surely come up as time goes on.

I hope that the Roberts decision was an aberration.  In his moderation, he seems to stretch to meet the liberals half-way.  But isn’t that the way it always is – conservatives reaching over to the left.  Which of the four liberal justices have ever reached over to the right?  It is a promising sign that Ginsberg trashed Roberts in her concurrence as much as he was trashed in the dissent.  And if conservatives weren’t galvanized enough for this 2012 election, I hope this will let us know that our battle is ongoing and never-ending.

Ohio Returns Five Seats Red

By mid-2009, we could tell the Democrats were in trouble. Tea parties and townhalls were vehicles for people to express the classic constitutional ideals of limited government, and vehemently opposing the big government Marxism that Democrats were advocating. If the Blue Dogs had stood up and challenged Obama and Pelosi, then things may have turned out different. But they did not, and now over half of them are gone along with many freshmen, sophmores, and even some old-timers.

Driehaus and Kilroy were almost guaranteed to lose given their small margins of victory. I thought that maybe one of Boccieri or Space would lose because they represented rural and light urban areas of Ohio. They both lost. And finally the Blue Dog Charlie Wilson got punished for siding with the president so often.

Betty Sutton survived with strength in Lorain and Summit Counties. Kucinich only recieved 52% of the vote, while Ryan only won 54% in a three-way race. Sutton for 55% and Marcy Kaptur got 59%. Only Marcia Fudge in the near-majority-minority district of East Cleveland won handily with over 80% of the vote.

Statewide races all went the Republcians, including Kasich in what was the closer of the major races. The Attorney General race was the closest with a number of folks voting against Mike DeWine, voting either for Cordray or Robert Owens of the Constitution Party.

Next up is redistricting where Ohio is likely to lose two seats. I expect Northern Ohio to be redrawn between Cleveland and Toledo where the four Democrat seats might go down to three. Akron should get some retribution from the 2000 map and have a single representative. Southeast Ohio also has the awkward Ohio River district. So it’ll be interesting what the final map looks like, and it’ll be Republicans doing the drawing.

Plain Dealer Turns Red

Cleveland’s Plain Dealer is usually in the business of endorsing Democrats.  Cuyahoga County is a heavily Democratic, and statewide Democrats usually need to win the county by 100,000 votes to balance losses in the more rural areas.  Yet even the traditional base recognizes an incompetence or failure to stop the bleeding – they have endorsed both John Kasich and Rob Portman.

Kasich (http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/10/the_plain_dealer_endorses_john_1.html) is running in the closer race, yet in some ways has the more forceful endorsement.  The PD endorsed Governor Strickland in 2006 on promises to moderate government, strengthen the “job-creating” Third Frontier plan, and reform education policies.  (On an historical note, Ohio’s education funding system was declared unconstitutional in 1979 and every governor for the last thirty years has made fixing it a top priority.)  The editorial board is more disappointed in Strickland’s performance and appears to endorse Kasich because, among other things, he’ll shake things up.  Kasich has the record of being House Budget Chairman during the balanced budgets of the Clinton administration which counts for a whole lot.  His Lehman Brothers career afterward is basically all that Strickland can lay on him.  The last four years have been tough on everybody, but Ohio has not kept up with other lower-tax, pro-growth states.

Rob Portman (http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/10/the_plain_dealer_endorses_rob.html) turns out to have the easier race.  He’s an attractive, traditional Republican candidate who should be more reliably conservative than either Voinovich or DeWine.  The Democrat Lee Fisher has run in statewide races over the last twenty years, and has given people little reason to vote for him.  He was able to beat the more progressive Jennifer Brunner last May with the money and support from the traditional “inside” Democrats, but it’s doubtful that she would have been able to run a more successful campaign – just a more entertaining one.

The PD has since endorsed Dennis Kucinich instead of Peter Corrigan (http://corriganforcongress.com/) and a slew of county and statewide Democrats, but the top of the ticket this year goes to the Republicans.