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.


Does Joe the Plumber Have A Shot?

Two things are true:

  1. Redistricting has made every district a “safe” district for the incumbent, which in this case is Marcy Kaptur.
  2. Of course I think that Joe the Plumber has a shot!

Marcy Kaptur has consistently received close to 75% of the vote for most of her career since her victory over a Republican incumbent in 1984.  In the Tea Party year of 2010, she got 59% over businessman Rich Iott while her neighboring incumbent Betty Sutton received 56% and then her neighbor Dennis Kucinich received 53%.  Kaptur’s district had stretched from her native Toledo to the east through Erie and Lorain Counties, while her new redrawn district includes much of the northern parts of this previous district and then parts of western Cuyahoga County which was Dennis Kucinich’s home turf.  She has some of Betty Sutton’s region although much of Sutton’s district was absorbed by Jim Renacci seat.  Also in Kaptur’s favor, the neighborhoods closer to Lake Erie tend to be more Democratic.

During the primary this March, Kaptur beat Kucinich by about 42K to 30K votes.  Wurzelbacher inched past his opponent 15K to 14K.  So the Republicans are already looking at a 70-30 deficit which is frankly about right given the way this district was drawn.  But of the four Democratic seats (the new Columbus seat, Marcia Fudge, and Tim Ryan), this one is the most high-profile and the one to pick off.

In order to win, Joe the Plumber will need to appeal to Kucinich voters in the Cleveland area.  Despite Kucinich’s runs for President and UFO-watching with Shirley MacLaine, he has maintained a working class front for a number of Cleveland voters.  He was not happy with some of the Kaptur tactics during the primary, and maybe these Democrats can be persuaded to switch sides.  Secondly, there may be Kucinich sympathizers in Lorain County.  These voters would be familiar with both Kaptur and Kucinich, and this county split their votes fairly evenly between these two.

Another essential tactic is to get the voters who do not vote in the primaries but vote in the general, i.e. the independents.  They need to decide if they like Obama and his policies or not, and these voters are in the heart of the Rust Belt.  They see the tragedy that is Detroit and have seen countless manufacturing jobs leave Cleveland, Youngstown, and Pittsburgh over the last few decades.  At some point, a person needs to decide if they will continue on the same voting path or choose to make a change and he will need to pull all of these voters to his side.  Each Democrat incumbent in 2010 lost over 10 points from their 2008 victories, so is there any more blood to squeeze out of this turnip?

I think there is, and this will depend on Romney coattails with both new and disaffected voters.  I can see some voters who split Obama-Wurzelbacher, but maybe a few Romney-Kaptur ones.  But the more Romney can make the Great Lakes area competitive, the better chance Republicans might have with House races.  The more Wurzelbacher can grease the skids with pro-business arguments, the better chance Romney has to take Ohio.  Hopefully by October, Romney will be running ahead in Ohio and even in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and Joe will be giving Marcy Kaptur a run for her career.

Joe the Congressional Candidate (formerly the Plumber)

Samuel Wurzelbacher won a tight primary race for the Congressional race in Ohio’s 9th “Lake Erie” district. People were watching the other side of this race as Marcy Kaptur beat Dennis Kucinich by almost 20 points, and she is heavily favored in this gerrymandered Democratic seat. It connects Toledo, moves through Ottowa, Erie, and Lorain Counties before including the urban parts of northwestern Cuyahoga County. These are heavy Democrat areas, but is there a chance for an upset in November?

In Cleveland, Kucinich was quick to attack Kaptur after her victory. (http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2012/03/dennis_kucinich_holding_back_o.html). Voters who may be solid Kucinich fans may switch sides just to punish Kaptur. There may be other Democrats who are new to this district who simply don’t know Marcy Kaptur and hold no particular allegiance to her.

In an article from Canada’s National Post (http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/03/11/joe-the-plumber/), we see the appeal he may have as simply an out-of-the-box candidate. “What qualifies him for Congress?” asks CNN. “What qualifies me? I’ve worked all my life. I mean, see these hands right here, there’s callouses on them,” he said. “I worked the last 25 years having to make results to feed my family, pay my bills. Politicians, you know, they live off the backs of broke taxpayers.”

In order to win, Wurzelbacher will need a good number of Democrats who are likely to vote for Obama to then choose to split their vote and punch his name for Congress. If these voters do split their vote, it won’t be because of the Toledo Republican’s views on tax policy or on Isreal. If Joe wins, it will be because people who have been working and struggling all of their middle-class lives will identify themselves more with a plumber than with a person who has been in Congress since the Reagan administration.

Ohio: Super Tuesday to November

It looks like Mitt Romney will sneak past Rick Santorum in Ohio by about 38%-37%.  Romney had some momentum with some victories last week, and conventional wisdom said that Santorum would be hurt by all the negative press on the social issues.  (This would be the Limbaugh – Fluke flap.)  But Santorum had obviously built up enough trust and good will among Ohio voters to give him the edge through most of the night.

Romney has done well with urban Republicans, a fact that causes some people concern while other people see it as an asset.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of the Romney-Santorum county map with the Obama-McCain county map.

We see that Romney beat Santorum in most of northeast Ohio, then in the Columbus and the Cincinnatti areas.  The rest of the state including the appalachian and rural areas went to Santorum.  In 2008, Obama won the three big cities plus more of northeast Ohio, the Toledo area, and a few counties by the Ohio river.

So Romney’s strength is regionally identical to Obama’s strength.  The Optimist: “Romney’s urban strength will weaken the margin of victory Obama has in the cities, while the more conservative areas will still hold strong for the Republican.”  The Pessimist: “the turnout in the cities will overwhelm the Republican, and the conservative turnout will be dampened by a candidate like Mitt Romney.”  It remains to be seen which scenario is correct, but I’m afraid that this is the question we’ll be asking ourselves for the next eight months.

In addition to winning the state, Romney has won ten congressional districts while Santorum took six.

There are seven Romney districts in red and three in pink.  These pink disctricts are ones where Rick Santorum failed to get his delegate nominations on the ballot.  These include the Lake Erie district (Marcy Kaptur) and the Younstown district (Tim Ryan) which both would have been won by Romney anyway.  Rick Santorum won the counties included in the southeastern ohio River district (Bill Johnson), so he could have closed it to a 9-7 split with this district flipping to his side.  The red district just to the north of Columbus (Pat Tibiri) was a close call for most of the night, but Romney ended up with a slight edge here.

Santorum had a very slight edge in the 8th district just north of Cincinnatti (John Boehner), but won more comfortably in the rest of the state with particular strength in the northwest districts (Bob Latta and Jim Jordan).   He also won the Democratic 3rd district in Columbus, an unexpected result given Romney’s win in Franklin County.

In other races in the state, Josh Mandel won the Senate nomination with 63% of the vote.  The second place challenger got 14% and ran for Senate as a Tea Party Independent in 2010, while I’ll admit that Donna Glisman is a surprise getting 12%.  I believe Mandel will be a strong candidate with some national appeal (RedState and Jim DeMint), and will bring a good fight to Sherrod Brown and his national appeal (DailyKos and MSNBC).

Two incumbent Congressmen lost in primary races.  Toledo’s Marcy Kaptur was endorsed by Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, and her strength in the Lake Erie distrct was too much for Dennis Kucinich to survive.  I look for him to either move to Washington state to continue his political career, or maybe he’ll switch gears and become a contributor to FoxNews.  Either way, his chapters in Cleveland seem to be coming to a close.  In a surprising race, Brad Wenstrup (http://usabrad.com/) beat Jean Schmidt in Ohio’s 2nd district.  Jean Schmidt had never had a comfortable race since taking over the seat vacated by Rob Portman in 2005, and she obviously could not appeal to newer voters in a redrawn district.  Finally in the new Columbus 3rd district, Joyce Beatty (http://beattyforcongress.com/) won a tight race against former one-term Congresswoman MaryJo Kilroy and she is likely to win this Democratic seat in November.

A long night here in Ohio.  Romney seems to have held his 2:1 margin in delegates over Rick Santorum.  Next week we move south, and if Romney is the front runner then he’ll have to try and compete in Alabama and Mississippi.  Losses there will cause people to continue to question his strength as a front-runner and he’ll have to chalk up victories in the dominican territories (which are likely wins for Romney) which follow afterward.  Two weeks from now is the next Super Tuesday with Illinois in play.

The path to victory is more difficult after tonight for Santorum and especially for Gingrich, but it is not impossible. Mitt Romney was the conservative choice four years ago, and voters may have to satisfy themselves with pushing him even more to the right in 2012.

A Closer Look at Ohio Districts

First of all, here is an image of the new congressional district map in Ohio.  The biggest changes occur in Northeast Ohio and then in Columbus where the city was given a district of its own for the first time in years.

As I described in my earlier post, northeast Ohio is a mess.  In this closer view of the Cleveland area, we see that the east and the west side of Cleveland continue to be split despite its population loss.  Instead of the Kucinich district being combined with that of Ms. Fudge, it stretches north and way to the west to Toledo to create a primary with Marcy Kaptur.  To maintain Cleveland’s minority-majority district, Ms. Fudge’s districts stretches south to capture the minority parts of Akron.   This in turn causes some odd shapes with districts from the rural north-central forcing them to stretch downward into Lorain and Cuyahoga counties.

In Summit County, we see that the Bob Gibbs district wraps around the Jim Renacci district, which then wraps around Akron now represented by Marcia Fudge (from Cleveland) and Tim Ryan (from Youngstown).  The spaghetti borders of Tim Ryan’s district can cause a person to go blind.  Steve LaTourette also had his district stretch to the south to now include parts of Portage and Summit Counties.


Finally we have the new congressional district in Columbus.  Former one-term congresswoman MaryJo Kilroy and Ohio Reps Ted Celeste and Joyce Beatty are among those considering this new seat.  The districts of Stivers and Tiberi should lean more Republican than in the past.  (Update: I had earlier put up an incorrect Columbus map.

Jim Jordan has the district to the northwest of Columbus while Steve Stivers has the district to the south.  The Turner-Austria district is further south and is now the Turner district following Austria’s decision not to run.)


This looks like Ohio will move from a 13-5 split to a 12-4 in the 2012 elections.  But it was only in 2008 that Ohio’s congressional split was 10-8 Democrat so I think those northern districts may be more competitve as time goes on.  Renacci and Gibbs are both Tea Party freshman, and Jim Renacci will be challenged this year by current congresswoman Betty Sutton.   It should be an interesting year.

Returning with the Redistricting Map

I’ve been out of commission for a while. Pray for your health and those of your loved ones – it is more important than almost anything.

So the redistrictring map was introduced in September, some adjustments were made to the Kaptur/Kucinich and the Turner/Austria districts, and then finally approved in December.  Here is a link to the final map – http://www.onntv.com/content/stories/2011/12/15/story-redisctricting-map.html.

The result consolidated the Democrat districts which subsequently strengthened most Republican areas – exactly the point of political redistricting (as opposed to fair and competitive redistricting).  The big move was the new Columbus district which is a solid addition to the Democrat side.  The Tiberi and Stivers districts were becoming more competitive, so this will let the Democrats in Franklin County be represented by a Democrat, and the outlying suburbs and surrounding counties will more likely vote for the Republican.

The big move with national implications is the Dennis Kucinich district being absorbed by the Marcy Kaptur district.  There is little logic behind this Lake Erie district except to force Kucinich into a primary with anybody other than Marcia Fudge.  The district represented by Ms. Fudge was squeezed to include areas of Akron so Ohio can maintain this minority-majority district.

Ohio lost two seats based on the last census.  The Democrats lost two seats in northern Ohio with the Kaptur-Sutton-Kucinich areas being absorbed roughtly into a single district, but were then given a seat in Columbus.  The Republicans consolidated the Austria-Turner district in south-central Ohio into a single district.

As a result, northern Ohio is a representative mess.  Cuyahoga and Summit counties are represented by four districts each, and the smaller Lorain and Portage counties each have three.  In order to stretch the Lake Erie district from Toledo to Cleveland, they needed to pull the districts of smaller cities and rural areas into southern Lorain county.  Bob Gibbs saw the biggest geographic shift as he had represented counties including and to the south of Tuscarawus and Cochocton, now he will compete in those counties and to their north.

The most competitive seat at the moment will be three-term Representative Betty Sutton challenging tea party freshman Jim Renacci.  This disctict includes Wooster and Wayne county, and then parts of Stark, Summit, and Lorain counties.  This district favors Renacci, but I don’t think it will be a slam-dunk.

In fact, the 2006 and 2008 elections saw Democratic gains in the rural north and appalachian areas of Ohio.  The Tea Party movement helped to switch these districts in 2010, but if that movement fails in the coming years then Democrats could end up regaining three or four seats by the end of the decade.  Then today’s Democrat complaints about the 12-4 split will turn into deer-in-the-headlights Republicans looking at an 8-8 map.