Ohio Elects New General Assembly and Two New Supreme Court Justices
While the country has been captivated with the multiyear presidential campaigns leading up to Election Day, most races on the ballot haven't gained nearly as much attention. However, due to the strangeness of this year's presidential election, many races for various Ohio legislative, judicial, and other seats had been put in the "toss up" category. Now that Election Day has come and gone, we can sort through the results to see how much impact the presidential race had on local legislative races here in Ohio.
Heading into election day¸ legislative Republicans held an overwhelming majority in both the House and the Senate. There was no doubt that Republicans would continue to hold control of the two chambers, the question was whether House Republicans would retain their 65-34 majority and whether Democrats could impact the Republicans' super majority in the Senate, which was a 23-10 split.
All results are unofficial at the time of publishing.
Ohio Supreme Court
The Ohio Supreme Court races haven't garnered much attention this election cycle, although they are very important. This year there were two open seats on the Supreme Court due to age limits as Justices Paul Pfeifer, the court’s senior member, and Judith Ann Lanzinger were no longer eligible to sit on the bench. Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor was also running for reelection, but did not have an opponent.
Judge Pat DeWine, a member of the First District Court of Appeals squared off against Judge Cynthia Westcott Rice, a member of the Eleventh District Court of Appeals. Another member of the First District Court of Appeals, Judge Pat Fischer faced Judge John P. O'Donnell, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge.
While judicial races are non-partisan, it is well known that DeWine and Fischer are Republicans while Rice and O'Donnell are both Democrats. Of all the four candidates, DeWine had the biggest war chest and the best name recognition due to his family’s political history; he is the son of the current Ohio Attorney General.
After the votes were counted, Judge Fischer beat Judge O’Donnell by a slim margin, 50.30% to 49.70%. Additionally, Judge DeWine easily bested Judge Rice 56.42% to 43.58%
Ohio General Assembly
There were twenty races that pundits across the state and Capital Square insiders believed could be up for a party change, eight of those being open seats where there was no incumbent running. Many of these races were in Franklin County where the so-called Trump factor was having an influence in polling. Heading into Election Day, many wondered if the Republican Presidential candidate would hurt fellow Republicans on the ballot. However, as we look at results today the opposite has occurred. With Trump’s large win in Ohio, legislative Republicans increased their majorities in both chambers.
Here's how the legislative races to watch stacked up after the ballots were counted:
16th District, Western Franklin County - This was an open seat, however Republicans thought they would have an easy time flipping Rep. Stephanie Kunze and Sen. Jim Hughes from one chamber to the other. Senate Republicans poured massive amounts of money into this race to try and keep it in their control. In the end, Kunze beat Cathy Johnson 59% to 41%.
24th District, Cuyahoga County - Another open seat, Democrats thought they had a chance early on with Emily Hagan, especially given her popular last name. However, after a long primary battle, Matt Dolan, a former House member and a member of the family that owns the American League Champion Cleveland Indians, held a substantial money lead over his rival. Matt Dolan will return to the legislature next year after a 58% to 41% victory.
30th District, Comprised of Ten Southwestern Counties - Republicans continued to try and wrestle this seat away from Sen. Lou Gentile and this year recruited a formidable candidate to run against him, Frank Hoagland. In the surprise of the night, Hoagland bested Gentile by six points, 53% to 47%, further increasing the Republican super-majority in the Senate.
3rd District, Wood County - This seat was open due its former occupier stepping down earlier this year. The county went for Obama in 2012 giving Democrats hope; however, this year it went for Trump. In the end Rep. Theresa Gavarone will continue representing the district she was appointed to, she won with 60% of the vote.
6th District, Cuyahoga County - In a normal election year, Rep. Marlene Anielski shouldn't have had any question as to whether she would hold onto her seat, and this year proved to be no different as she easily won her race 61% to 38%.
16th District, Cuyahoga County - Another open seat, Democrats had hoped to pick this seat back up after being held by Republicans for the last eight years. They were unsuccessful as Republican Dave Greenspan won 56% to 43%.
17th District, Frankly County - This open seat has been held by Democrats, and has been an uphill climb for Republicans since redistricting a few years ago. Adam Miller, who bested a primary challenger, will continue to hold this seat for Democrats after beating John Rush 54% to 46%.
20th District, Franklin County – Rep. Heather Bishoff's two previous elections have been a shining star for Democrats, but she faced a quality candidate this year. However, Republican Lisa Schacht couldn't overcome Bishoff's popularity as she won with 53% to 46%.
21st District, Franklin County - Donald Trump's polling increased the unpredictability of this seat, however, incumbent Rep. Mike Duffey had no trouble as he bested his challenger 59% to 41%.
23rd District, Franklin County - An open seat target for both parties, Republican Laura Lanese beat Democrat Lee Schreiner 58% to 42%.
24th District, Franklin County - Sen. Jim Hughes has been a longtime figure around Capital Square and should have had an easy race to return to the House. With the lack of predictableness of this election cycle, Hughes had to run a more aggressive campaign than he has in the past. But he was easily able to hold this seat for Republicans winning 60% to 40%.
28th District, Hamilton County - Democrats had been hoping to win back this seat after losing it in 2014. But it wasn't in the cards this year and Rep. Johnathan Dever will continue to represent this district winning 58% of the vote.
37th District, Summit County - Summit County was once a strong hold for Democrats, however this seat has been held by the very conservative Rep. Kristina Roegner for the past three terms. Democrats this year ran Hudson Councilman Casey Weinstein against her. In the end, the district stuck with Roegner with a 55% to 46% win.
43rd District, Montgomery/Preble Counties - This district leans to the Democrats, however Republican Rep. Jeff Rezabek unseated an incumbent last election. He won easily this year over Democrat David Sparks 58% to 42%.
55th District, Lorain County - In the most Democrat leaning seat that the Republicans hold, Rep. Nathan Manning had great name recognition and the party fought hard to help him keep his seat. The challenge by Democrat Kelly Kraus Mencke didn't gain enough traction. Manning won 60% to 40%.
57th District, Huron/Lorain County - Donald Trump was expected to win big and carry these counties. However Democrats fielded a bipartisan-friendly candidate, Tom Dunlap who is a county commissioner and former sheriff, making this a case where Republican Dick Stien faced a harder campaign than expected for this open seat. Stien easily win 62% to 38%.
79th District, Clark County - Democrats have long wanted this seat in their column and ran Alex Wendt, a young firefighter against Rep. Kyle Koehler who is just finishing his first term. However, Koheler easily won reelection 60% to 40%.
89th District, Ottawa and Erie Counties - This seat has had a lot of drama in the past two years. In 2014, Republicans were elated when then current seat holder Chris Redfern, who was Chair of the Democratic Party, lost the seat. But, his Republican replacement resigned after a felony theft conviction. Former Republican County Commissioner Steven Arndt now holds the seat and will continue to do so after easily winning his race 61% to 39%.
94th District, Four Southeastern Counties - This seat has been held by Democrats for the past eight years, but Republicans eyed this seat as one they wanted. This seat proved to be a pick-up for Republicans as Jay Edwards defeated Democrat Sarah Grace 58% to 42%.
95th District, Five Eastern Ohio Counties - Republican Rep. Andy Thompson faced the toughest race he's had with the Democrat’s choice of Ginny Favede, a Belmont County Commissioner. However, in this case, Donald Trump's and Thompson’s popularity, was enough to carry Thompson on to his fourth term with a 62% to 39% win.
Franklin County Prosecutor
The long-serving Franklin County Prosecutor, Ron O’Brien, had a hard-fought battle to retain his position. The Democrats targeted this position, which is responsible for prosecuting government-related ethical/criminal infractions. The Republicans engaged in a state-wide funding effort to assist O’Brien, who retained the seat by a margin of 49% to 45%.
All Ohio federal incumbents handily retained their Congressional and Senate seats. Of note, Sen. Rob Portman ran a race that has received praise from across the country and that resulted in the defeat of his challenger, former Governor Ted Strickland.
Despite initial concerns, it seems clear that President-elect Trump’s “movement” worked in the Republican’s favor this year in Ohio, with both the House and Senate gaining larger majorities. When the new General Assembly convenes in January, the House make-up will be 66-33 and the Senate will be 24-9, making the Republican majorities in both chambers super majorities, holding two-thirds of the total seats.