Ohio Specials Prelude

By Jim Ellis


July 28, 2021 — Voters in north Texas went to the polls yesterday to decide the double-Republican runoff in their state’s vacant 6th District, but there is unfolding action in the two Ohio special elections right now. The Buckeye State’s vacant CD’s will culminate with partisan primary elections next week, on Aug. 3.

First, the Mellman Group, polling for the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC (July 13-17; 400 OH-11 likely Democratic primary voters, live interview), sees the multi-candidate contest in the Cleveland-Akron seat that has evolved into a race between two candidates getting even closer.

Mellman’s ballot test finds former state senator and ex-Bernie Sanders for president national co-chair Nina Turner leading Cuyahoga County ouncilmember and local Democratic Party chair Shontel Brown by a tightening 41-36 percent spread with the momentum again flowing toward the latter woman. The remaining 11 candidates all split an aggregate five percent, with the remainder categorized as undecided/don’t know/refused to answer.

We can expect a very active final week as the candidates continue attempting to convince their voters to cast early ballots or visit the polls a week from tomorrow. The eventual Democratic nominee will become the prohibitive favorite heading into the Nov. 2 special general election. The winner will replace former Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland) who resigned the seat upon her confirmation as Housing & Urban Development Secretary in President Biden’s cabinet.

Mellman’s most recent effort delivered the closest result from a Democratic polling firm. Compared to their June poll, Brown is the beneficiary of a net 19-point swing. In the June poll, Mellman found a 50-26 percent spread in favor of Turner. In early July, Normington Petts, polling for the Brown campaign, also detected movement toward their client. They forecast a 43-36 percent result, certainly in the same realm as the Mellman poll conducted more than a week later. The original Mellman poll came in April and found Turner more than doubling Brown’s support, at 42-19 percent.

The primary campaign is dividing along the past Democratic primary presidential lines. The Bernie Sanders’ group, including the candidate himself, has endorsed Turner, along with the Justice Democrats PAC associated with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and their individual congressional supporters.

Many of Hillary Clinton’s key backers, also including the candidate herself, are supporting Brown. The latter woman also has won the backing of Ohio’s current lone African American representative, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus). As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, she, along with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), delivered an official organization endorsement for Brown.

In the district due south of Columbus, the action is in the Republican primary. The 15th District has become safely Republican, though the Democrats have a credible special general election candidate in the person of state Rep. Allison Russo (D-Columbus). She, however, has only raised a little over $273,000 according to the pre-primary financial disclosure report for the period ending July 14. The low number suggests that national Democrats aren’t going to make a major play for this seat in November unless the political climate drastically changes.

On the GOP side, it appeared that state Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) had the early advantage, but the race has changed. Former President Trump endorsement of Ohio Coal Association chairman Mike Carey helped him raise $460,000 for his campaign, but he came in behind state Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) who posted more than $556,000 raised. Investment manager Thomas Hwang loaned his campaign $575,000, which allows him to have sufficient resources with which to build name identification.

Rep. LaRe was the beneficiary of an independent expenditure from resigned Rep. Steve Stivers (R), with the promise of further spending. Despite the early boost from the former incumbent, LaRe’s receipt total in the pre-primary report was just slightly north of $239,000 for the campaign, which is considerably below expectations.

In the next eight days, the special election cycle will greatly change as we will effectively know who will win the next three races. Today’s Texas contest will elect one of the two candidates outright. The following week’s Ohio races will choose nominees who will be virtually assured of taking their seats late this year. Once those results are known, only the FL-20 seat will be vacant with a special election cycle not concluding until Jan. 11 of next year.

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