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.

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Ohio in the 113th Congress

The new year brought much crisis and intrigue in Congress.  Of course, we have a President who operates by crisis and has victories in doing so.  There’s no reason for him to change, so we can look forward to last-minute deals at the edge of each cliff that is created over the next four years.  How are the 12 Ohio Republicans going to fare?  Lets start with the end – 2014.

Safe Republicans should include Steve Chabot, freshman Brad Wenstrup, Jim Jordan, Bob Latta, Mike Turner, and Steve Stivers.  The Tea Party sophomores Bob Gibbs and Bill Johnson are probably safe but you never know.  Democrats are likely to mount strong challenges to Jim Renacci and to David Joyce who won the seat left by Steve LaTourette.  These are both northeast Ohio districts and are the most likely to flip blue at some point.

For potential Republican primary challenges, Pat Tiberi is in a much more conservative district than he was in 2008 when Barack Obama carried the district.  His votes are much closer to LaTourette than they are to a solid conservative like Chabot and this might not be palatable in his newly carved region.  And lastly, the Speaker John Boehner is in a solidly red district and I trust everybody will be watching his performance very closely.

The “fiscal cliff” vote was one of the last of the 112th Congress.  Yes votes included Speaker Boehner, Tea Party favorite Bill Johnson, the three-term conservative Bob Latta, the Columbus pair of Steve Stivers and Pat Tiberi, and Mr. Chucklehead himself, Steve LaTourette.  Stivers, Tiberi, and LaTourette are the most liberal of the Republican delegation, so their votes aren’t a surprise.  Bob Latta is in a solid district and he may have voted to keep some of his bridges from burning.  Bill Johnson’s vote is interesting as his district is one that is traditionally Democrat but has shifted over the last few elections.  And then there’s Boehner.

Boehner had a somewhat vocal challenge to his leadership which crashed when the votes were actually cast.  I didn’t hear any Ohioan being part of this coup, although Jim Jordan, former Republican Caucus Chair, received a Speaker vote from Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.  Jordan himself voted for Boehner.

On the Democrat side, Ohio has two female members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty.  The dean of the Ohio delegation is Marcy Kaptur who is enjoying her 15th term and is the second Democrat in line on the Appropriations Committee.  The fourth Democrat is Tim Ryan whose name has been floated for a run for Governor in 2014.

Activists have long memories, and decisions made on the fiscal cliff deal and the upcoming debt ceiling fight will lead to decisions whether or not to mount primary challenges.  I just hope that these decisions indeed move this country forward, if only to stop ourselves from moving backwards.