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GOP momentum carries down ticket races in Ohio

Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau

Republicans swept the top races on the ballot in Ohio, with incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine winning re-election and political newcomer JD Vance winning the US Senate seat left vacant with fellow Republican Rob Portman’s retirement.

While there were lots of reports of long lines, turnout is expected to be around half of Ohio’s 8 million registered voters. Among those who voted Tuesday in central Ohio was Joanna Mahoney, who was frustrated with all the ads she was seeing.

“The person who supposedly has the most money or backing gets the most ads – I think it’s criminal. I don’t think it should be done that way. I think our government needs to limit what they can spend.”

Nathaniel Badertscher served in the US Army.

“Part of what we were doing was trying to maintain our countrymen’s ability to have a say in what goes on. And so that’s why I try to carry on now and go every year and make sure I have my say.”

Chante Meadows is a social worker.

“Most issues are all related to what I do – they’re related to people. There’s a lot going on the world. So we all matter and we all have to have our voice heard.”

The lone bright spot for Ohio Democrats were in the Congressional races. The state’s delegation shrunk by one to 15, and Democrats will comprise a third of that, with Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman defeating incumbent Republican Steve Chabot. With former Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes winning an open seat in northeast Ohio, four of the five Democrats are women, three of them Black women. 10 Republican men were elected to Congress from Ohio – nine incumbents along with Max Miller, who’d been an aide to former president Trump.

Republicans retained their supermajority among state lawmakers, winning big in the Ohio House. Among the Democrats who lost: Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the US Supreme Court case from Ohio that established marriage equality in the US.

Eight of Ohio’s 33 senators are Democrats, and that number is now smaller, with Tina Maharath, the first Asian American woman elected to the Ohio Senate, apparently losing to Republican Michelle Reynolds, who’ll be the first Black Republican woman state senator.

The three Republican justices on the Ohio Supreme Court all won – Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer were re-elected, and Sharon Kennedy moves to the Chief Justice seat being vacated by Republican Maureen O’Connor’s mandatory retirement. In an interview before the election, Kennedy said she didn’t like the Republican-backed law that attached party labels to candidates for justice, which voters saw for the first time this year.

“I think that both sides have been politicizing races for a long time and that this was just the next step. And I disagree with it because I don't believe I represent the Republican Party. I believe my job is to do exactly what the Founders believe: neutral, fair, impartial.”

Kennedy’s open seat will be filled by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. Her Democratic opponent, Jennifer Brunner, stays on the bench. The balance of the Ohio Supreme Court remains four Republicans to three Democrats.

Abortion and redistricting are likely to come before the Ohio Supreme Court in the coming year. Kennedy, DeWine and Fischer all said in candidate surveys for Cincinnati Right to Life’s political action committee they believe life begins at fertilization. And the three all had voted to uphold maps drawn by Republicans that a majority of the court ruled were unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

Voters overwhelmingly approved two constitutional amendments. Issue 2 will ban non-citizens from voting in local elections. Issue 1 will require that judges and courts use public safety as a factor in setting bail, which critics had said would mean more low-income people accused of crimes behind bars and would derail bail reform talks that have been going on for years. Republican Attorney General Dave Yost doesn’t see it that way.

“There's still a constitutional guarantee against excessive bail, and most defendants in Ohio still get a recognizance bond. They don't have any cash bail at all. So it's not an either-or proposition. But I do think that there are things that we can do to make the bail system operate more effectively and more fairly.”

Yost was among the incumbents in the five statewide executive offices to lock up another four years in those jobs. He won, along with Auditor Keith Faber, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Treasurer Robert Sprague, who all easily defeated much less well known and less funded Democratic challengers.