Jan. 15, 2018 — Since the turn of the century, the state of Ohio has become crucial in deciding national elections, and its status for 2018 is no exception. This week, several key moves were made that began to define the general election ballot even before candidate filing closes and the May 8 primary is conducted.
The Senate race was shaken last week when state treasurer Josh Mandel (R), the 2012 Senate nominee who had the inside track to again win the Republican primary in order to force a re-match with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), unexpectedly announced he was dropping out of the race due to a newly diagnosed health condition for his wife. Though investment banker Michael Gibbons was still in the race, a Republican void existed in a campaign that has all the underpinnings of becoming highly competitive. Even with President Obama leading the Democratic ticket and carrying Ohio six years ago, Mandel managed to hold Sen. Brown to only a 51-45 percent re-election victory.
Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth), who had been competing in the governor’s race, announced late last week that he would switch to the Senate campaign. The Republican gubernatorial primary underwent significant change in November, and both Renacci and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor found themselves on the outside looking in. Because attorney general and former US senator, Mike DeWine, and Secretary of State Jon Husted, the candidates who were running 1-2 in early polling, decided to join forces and form a ticket, the odds of either Taylor or Renacci upsetting the race leader, DeWine, grew to long-shot proportions.
While Taylor remains in the governor’s race, Renacci has now bolted for the Senate campaign to hopefully compete against Sen. Brown. The incumbent is clearly taking his re-election campaign very seriously, as the coming financial disclosure report will show his cash-on-hand figure to be already approaching $10 million. With Renacci’s ability to self-fund a statewide campaign and Republicans looking fondly on President Trump’s eight-point victory in Ohio, the eventual GOP nominee – whether it’s Rep. Renacci, Gibbons, or another late-entry candidate – will command the resources necessary to match whatever Brown and his Democratic allies spend.
Because 2021 reapportionment and redistricting will be of paramount importance, Ohio, again sure to lose another seat in reapportionment while featuring a 12R-4D delegation split, will once more be front and center for the national re-mapping picture; thus, the governor, elected in 2018, will gain the power of holding the redistricting veto pen. This makes the stakes even higher for both parties to win the gubernatorial campaign.
With this background, Democrats late this week began to follow DeWine and Husted’s lead and now have formed a ticket of their own. This move, too, forced a current competitor out of the race.
Former US Rep. Betty Sutton announced that she is ending her campaign for governor and will join former attorney general and ex-Federal Consumer Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray on a Democratic ticket. Cordray will continue in the governor’s race, while Sutton will become his running mate and file for lieutenant governor.
At an announcement event scheduled for last Friday, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley announced that she is ending her own gubernatorial campaign and will back the new Cordray-Sutton ticket. This would leave former congressman Dennis Kucinich, who just announced his candidacy this week, state senator and former Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Mahoning County), and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich to oppose Cordray.
A DeWine-Husted vs. Cordray-Sutton general election would actually be a re-match of the 2010 attorney general’s campaign. In that election, DeWine, after losing his US Senate seat in 2006, rebounded to unseat Cordray for the attorney general’s post. Now, the odds favor the two again opposing each other, but this time for Ohio’s top office.
Thus, 2018 promises to be another pivotal year in Buckeye State politics complete with national implications.