By Jim Ellis
Aug. 3, 2021 — Though the two Ohio special congressional elections won’t officially be decided until the Nov. 2 general election, today’s nomination contest in both the vacant 11th and 15th congressional districts will unofficially choose the succeeding representatives in the respective Democratic and Republican primary elections.
District 11, the vacated Cleveland-Akron seat because former Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland) resigned to accept her appointment as Housing & Urban Development Secretary, is a solidly Democratic seat (Biden ’20: 80-19 percent; Clinton ’16: 80-17 percent). Though yielding a Democratic primary of 13 candidates, the race is boiling down to a two-way contest between former state senator and 2020 Bernie Sanders for president national co-chair Nina Turner and Cuyahoga County councilwoman and local Democratic Party chair Shontel Brown.
The 15th District lies in southern Ohio and contains some of the south Columbus suburbs of Franklin County along with 11 largely rural counties southwest, south, and southeast of the state’s capital city. The former incumbent here, Steve Stivers (R-Columbus), resigned his office in May to accept a position as president/CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. This, after testing the waters for a US Senate run. OH-15 is a reliable Republican district (Trump ’20: 56-42 percent; Trump ’16: 55-40 percent) that has grown more conservative over time.
Originally, it appeared that former Sen. Turner was a lock in the 11th District. She had big leads in polling and fundraising, but in the past six weeks, Brown has made major strides. While the latest polling still projects her trailing just outside the polling margin of error, the prevailing political trend is definitively moving in the local official’s direction.
This race is also shaping up as a battle between the two major factions within today’s Democratic Party: the Democratic socialists, led by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and the political action committee known as the Justice Democrats, opposite the national party establishment featuring such individuals as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the Congressional Black Caucus leadership, and Hillary Clinton.
While keeping her ads positive, some of Brown’s outside supporters, namely the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, have highlighted public comments Turner previously made about President Biden, Vice President Harris, all before they were elected to their present positions, and the Democratic Party in general. Conversely, Brown’s campaign ads highlight her strong support for President Biden and his stated policy agenda.