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  First of all, Isaac Quinones II had withdrawn his challenge to Marcy Kaptur and instead put it in to face Jim Renacci.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.

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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.

Weak or Vulnerable GOP Congressmen

It’s nice to receive validation, especially from folks at the Madison Project who I believe cross over into RealClearPolitics and RedState.  The Madison Project has scored the last Congress on conservative votes, and then compared that to the conservativeness of their respective district.  In looking at their “Hall of Shame,” we can see which Representatives should be voting more conservatively than they currently are.  Many of the greatest offenders come from weaker Republicans in strong GOP districts in the South, although there are many strong GOP districts across the country.  (“Hall of Fame” kudos to Jim Jordan, and also to Steve Chabot who didn’t make the cut but is fighting the good fight.)

Most of Ohio’s Republican districts would be considered leaning or swing, and they include the four who I’ve previously tagged as weak or vulnerable.  Both Steve Stivers (OH-15) and Pat Tiberi (OH-12) were redistricted away from central Columbus into areas which should be more Republican.  These two are ripe for GOP primaries.  (The Madison Project has Tiberi in a D+1 district, but I think that is the old district and not the new one.)  These two do NOT show up in Cook’s current Race Ratings and any Republican should be a winner, so why not challenge these two and get somebody in Congress more conservative?

The other two might be a little more tricky.  David Joyce (OH-14) (replacing Steve LaTourette, and who seems to have a similar temperament although we’ll wait for more data) and Jim Renacci (OH-16) are in districts that are slightly more Democrat-leaning than the 2002 map.  LaTourette had earned respect from his district and Republican challenges weren’t done and Democrat challenges fell flat.  If Joyce were to lose a primary to a more conservative candidate, the national Democrats will throw everything at this district because it is certainly winnable for them.  Ashtabula County has always leaned Democrat, and this district now includes more parts of Summit County which is certainly more Democrat.

Renacci’s district now includes the southwestern parts of Cuyahoga as well as parts of Medina County which are swing areas.  His district may be a bit more conservative than Joyce’s, but Democrats are pretty active and will likely have a high-profile candidate run on their side.  A primary generally hurts the incumbent, and it would be a struggle for either Renacci or the challenger to follow up with a November win.  It doesn’t mean somebody won’t try, and maybe Cook sees something that I don’t.  Like Stivers and Tiberi, Renacci is NOT listed as a vulnerable seat.

Moving to the Cook Report, there are two other seats that he has as “likely Republican.”  Bob Gibbs has a completely new district and people in the rural north are generally more Democrat than the rural central.  Bill Johnson’s district travels the southeast edge of the state bordering Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  The Appalachian areas are becoming more Republican and I think Gibbs is the more vulnerable of the two.

The big race in 2014 in Ohio will be for Governor.  Active Tea Party members are upset at the Medicaid expansion proposed by Kasich, and may consider a challenge in a primary.  I would be very concerned if they choose to challenge in the general, however, as a third party.  Kasich barely won in the big year of 2010, and if he loses just 5% to a third party then that might get a Democrat back in the statehouse.

Next year’s summer and fall should be all about getting out the conservative vote, but the winter and spring better be about getting a conservative candidate.  I hope conservatives are considering challenges at least to Stivers and Tiberi (and throw in Boehner), and we can push the next House even further to the right.  Gowdy, Amash, Chaffez, Brindenside, Gohmert, and Jim Jordan need all the help they can get.

David Joyce: Latourette TNG

Last month the seven county GOP leaders encompassed in the northeast 14th district, selected Geauga County Prosecutor David Joyce to replace Steve LaTourette.  LaTourette has been critical of the partisanship in the current Congress and decided to retire AFTER winning the Republican nomination in March, thereby preventing the nutty Tea Party voters from competing for his seat.  In selecting Joyce, the county leaders picked somebody much like LaTourette who was the Lake County Prosecutor and is respected by both sides of the aisle.  Here’s more from the Plain Dealer.

David Joyce speaks at a Romney rallyI actually heard both Steve LaTourette and David Joyce during a rainy day in Painesville at a Mitt Romney event in mid-September.  Joyce was good enough and is close to a shoe-in to win the November election.  Joyce’s opponent is not well-known or well-funded.  Democrats may choose this district as one of those to pick off in 2014 as they seek to regain some Congressional seats in (according to the  recent frustrating polls) “Blue” Ohio.

On a day that featured Joyce, Senator Portman, Senate candidate Mandel, and Mitt Romney, the most engaging speaker was Steve LaTourette himself.  It made me feel bad when thinking about my earlier posts criticizing his moderate stances, but he is responsible for the bed he made.  LaTourette spoke passionately about the problems with the policies of Obamacare and the means by which it was achieved.  He also spoke about jobs and the economy, and how the hyper-regulation of the EPA has specifically prevented local businesses from expansion and development.  That argument has unfortunately been missing in the Romney or Mandel campaigns, and they should get LaTourette to open all their events in Ohio and the rest of the swing states.  It was that good.