In what amounted to an anticlimactic night, all of the Ohio statewide offices remained in Republican hands by wide margins of victory. In the Governor’s race, which seemingly had been decided after the campaign of Ed FitzGerald imploded in August, the only thing in question was the final margin of victory. Governor John Kasich was re-elected handily, winning by a 2-1 margin over his Democratic challenger. It was the largest margin of victory since 1994 and a substantial increase over his narrow victory in 2010 over then-Gov. Ted Strickland. In his comments after being declared the winner, Gov. Kasich said “This is not just another election, this is not just another political campaign... this is a movement.”
Speculation began immediately as to whether the Governor will consider a 2016 Presidential run. While offering no clear answer yet, conventional wisdom strongly suggests that the significant re-election margin of victory immediately makes Gov. Kasich a part of the 2016 Republican conversation.
Secretary of State Jon Husted won re-election, defeating Sen. Nina Turner with 60 percent of the vote to Turner’s 35 percent, while Libertarian candidate Kevin Knedler secured 5 percent. The tenor of this race was somewhat partisan, with Turner alleging Secretary Husted and Republicans were working to restrict ballot access and make it harder to vote. Husted’s response was that his office worked hard to make voting easier, but harder to cheat. Secretary Husted is one of several Republicans expected to run for Governor in 2018.
State Auditor Dave Yost secured re-election against State Rep. John Carney, winning 57 to 38 percent, while Libertarian Bob Bridges secured 5 percent. In this race, Rep. Carney struggled to make the argument for a change in the Auditor’s office after Yost had bucked his own party and agreed to audit JobsOhio. Yost is considered likely to explore a run at the Governor’s office in 2018.
In the race for Attorney General, Mike DeWine successfully beat back challenger David Pepper by a 62 to 38 percent tally and secured the second highest vote total of all statewide races behind the Governor. In a race that seemed to be personal at times, DeWine was able to overcome Pepper’s allegations of pay-to-play and ignoring allegations of sexual harassment. Pepper, in a second run for statewide office, reportedly spent $1.6 million of his own money in this race. DeWine is also rumored to be a possible candidate for Governor in 2018.
Finally, Josh Mandel defeated State Rep. Connie Pillich by a 57 to 43 percent margin to secure re-election as State Treasurer. Mandel, who was defeated by Sherrod Brown for a U.S. Senate seat in 2012, ran an effective race against Air Force veteran Pillich. Mandel ran a relatively quiet campaign, focusing on improvements made to the Treasurer’s Office that raised the office’s ranking from 43rd to 7th compared to other state treasurers. Mandel is also considered likely to enter the 2018 Governor’s race, further crowding the field which is likely to include Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and, perhaps, others.
The Ohio Senate
Two years ago it seemed almost certain that Ohio’s Senate Democrats would make inroads into the 23 seat majority held by Republicans. Republican efforts to curtail collective bargaining rights had been soundly rejected in a statewide referendum of Senate Bill 5, and the sheer number of competitive and Democratic-leaning districts on the ballot in 2014 had things looking good for the minority party. However, the Senate Republicans rallied and demonstrated why they have retained control of Ohio’s upper chamber for 30 straight years. In an election that turned out to have few surprises, the Republicans maintained a 23-10 edge in the Senate, defending several key seats but failing to pick up a targeted district in Cincinnati.
Here’s a recap of the action:
Senate District 3
This suburban Columbus district was widely considered up for grabs. However, incumbent Republican Kevin Bacon went on TV early, and stacked up an easy 61 to 39 percent victory over his opponent, Star Johnson.
Senate District 5
As other races started to break one way or the other, both caucuses poured recourses into this Southwestern Ohio district, which includes Dayton and its northern suburbs. Political insiders had this one too close to call heading into the last weekend, but a large cash advantage clearly factored into the final results of this contest, as incumbent Republican Bill Beagle handily outlasted Democratic challenger Dee Gillis by a margin of 57 to 43 percent.
Senate District 9
Senate Republicans targeted this heavily Democratic Cincinnati district as their one pickup opportunity for the cycle. Despite fielding a top notch candidate in Charlie Winburn and investing significant financial resources into the race, Republicans failed to capture the open seat. Democrat Cecil Thomas held his own on the fundraising front, and worked hard to turn out Democratic voters. His efforts paid off as he cruised to a 57 to 43 percent victory.
Senate District 13
In the only other truly competitive district of the cycle, incumbent Republican Gayle Manning squared off against youthful challenger Marcus Madison in this district, which expands west and south of Cleveland. Widely acknowledged as an up-and-comer in the Democratic ranks, Madison could not overcome the popular Manning, who capitalized on an aggressive grassroots campaign and substantial financial backing from her caucus. Manning made it look easier than it was, winning 64 to 36 percent.
Senate District 27
While competitive on paper, incumbent Republican Frank LaRose was never in danger of losing this Akron-based district. LaRose has spent the last four years establishing himself as a centrist Republican and working collaboratively with labor unions and other key constituencies in his district. The voters clearly recognized this and rewarded him with a 68 to 32 percent victory over Democratic hopeful George Rusiska.
The Ohio House
Political insiders already knew there would be many new faces in the Ohio House next year due to term limits, but few anticipated that number would grow even higher with five Republicans winning elections in districts formerly held by Democrats. House Republicans will hold a historic 65-34 majority next year.
No race was more surprising to Republicans and Democrats alike than Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern’s loss to Tea Party challenger Steven Kraus. Redfern announced he would step down as party chairman last night following the reelection of all the Republican statewide officials. With nearly a third of the House Members being new next year and the departure of iconic Speaker Bill Batchelder, there are sure to be many changes coming to the Lower Chamber. An influx of tea party members adds an additional layer of complexity to the incoming leadership team’s platform. Often ideologically parting with the Republican establishment, the next House Speaker may need to reach across the aisle for passage of high-profile pieces of legislation such as the biennial budget.
Here’s a look at the districts that drew the most attention:
House District 5
This Columbiana County district has been a target for House Republicans since Rep. Nick Barborak wrested the seat from Republicans in 2012. A swing district, challenger Tim Ginter received substantial party support and won the race with a commanding 59 percent of the vote.
House District 28
Republicans have put significant resources towards this district for nearly a decade in an attempt to reclaim a seat that has always been competitive. Representative Connie Pillich’s decision to run for statewide office left the open seat vulnerable. Jonathan Dever, a Cincinnati attorney won the seat with 55 percent of the vote.
House District 43
Republican Attorney Jeff Rezabek handily beat incumbent Democrat Roland Winburn in this Montgomery County race. The district has been a Republican target in the past, and became more friendly towards Republicans following redistricting in 2011.
House District 55
Voters in this district had the ability to lend support to two Manning family members this election. Republican Nathan Manning’s win means he will join his mother, Senator Gayle Manning, in the legislature next year. Nathan is a prosecutor for the city of North Ridgeville and is a partner at Manning & Manning, LLC.