SUDDES: 2022 will be the year of the Ticked Off Voter

Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University. He covered the Statehouse for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for many years.
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Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University. He covered the Statehouse for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for many years.

Unless COVID-19 goes away tomorrow – and it won’t – 2022 will be the Year of the Ticked Off Voter, a year incumbents should fear.

People are tired of masks and quarantines and skyrocketing gas- and grocery prices. That should stoke Statehouse jitters, given that Ohioans will elect a governor, senator, 15 U.S. House members, four down-ticket statewide executives, the Ohio House and half the state Senate as well as three state Supreme Court members, including the chief justice.

In 1968, fed up with “crime in the streets” Ohio, which had overwhelmingly supported Democrat Lyndon Johnson in 1964, supported Republican Richard M. Nixon instead, and sent Champaign County Republican William B. Saxbe to the U.S. Senate.

Also in 1968, Ohioans cast almost 12% of their presidential vote for race-baiter George C. Wallace. No big non-slavery state cast a bigger percentage of its vote for Wallace, and among those Wallace voters were a fair share of blue-collar Democrats.

In 1980, angered because of gasoline lines, the humiliation imposed on the United States by revolutionary Iran, and the cluelessness of Jimmy Carter, Ohioans – who had cast their votes for Carter in 1976 – instead voted enthusiastically for Ronald Reagan.

Yet also in ‘80, Ohioans re-elected a Democrat – Sen. John Glenn – awarding him 2.77 million votes while Reagan was attracting 2.21 million.That is, public perceptions of character can outweigh party – a point which may be pivotal in Ohio’s 2022 marquee contests.

Given all that, here’s an updated Ohio shape up: The winner of Ohio’s 15 U.S. House seats and seats in Ohio’s House and state Senate will be determined by whatever districts – and whoever drew them – candidates run in. Pending Ohio Supreme Court rulings, advantage: GOP.

State Supreme Court contests will be funded by, and hinge on support from, personal-injury lawyers vs. insurance companies and other big business interests.

The General Assembly (both houses) will remain Republican unless (a) courts order a radical redraft of the districts Republicans drew or (b) the federal grand jury investigating the House Bill 6 utility scandal indicts any incumbent legislators (keeping in mind, though, that HB 6 couldn’t have become law without the votes of nine House Democrats and three in the Senate).

Sen. Rob Portman, a suburban Cincinnati Republican, isn’t seeking a third term. The likely Democratic nominee is U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, of suburban Warren; key challenger: Fellow Democrat Morgan Harper.

Notable Republicans seeking the senatorial nomination: State Sen. Matt Dolan, of suburban Cleveland; entrepreneur Mike Gibbons; ex-State Treasurer Josh Mandel; auto dealer/entrepreneur Bernie Moreno; former GOP State Chair Jane Timken; and author/entrepreneur J.D. (James David) Vance.

Six weeks ago, it seemed the likeliest GOP nominee was Mandel or Vance. Now, thanks to an ad blitz (but – a caveat – with the primary months off) Gibbons may have supplanted Vance as Mandel’s key rival, not forgetting Timken, the only woman in the race in an Ohio that, shamefully, is way overdue for a female senator.

Democrats haven’t settled on their gubernatorial nominee; competing for the slot are two ex-mayors, John Cranley, of Cincinnati, and Nan Whaley, of Dayton.

As for the GOP, Gov. Mike DeWine’s prime challenger is ex-U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, of Wadsworth. Renacci has raised a range of issues in his quest to unseat DeWine. No question, meanwhile, a kernel of GOP rebels thinks DeWine isn’t an authentic Republican, or at least not an authentic conservative, because of moves he’s made to contain COVID-19.

Presumably that means that the more Ohioans die from COVID-19, the more authentically conservative an officeholder is. In the land of the 100 percenters, that’s what passes for logic.

Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University. He covered the Statehouse for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for many years.

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