SUDDES: Ohio Republicans on the road to victory in November

Though there are some potholes in the pavement, Ohio Republicans are on the road to significant statewide victories 64 days from now, in November’s general election, unless something radical happens, such as more indictments in the House Bill 6-FirstEnergy scandal.

That is, for the foreseeable future, Ohio Republicans’ statewide ticket of executive officers, starting with Gov. Mike DeWine, is sitting pretty.

DeWine’s Democratic challenger, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, has been unable to approach, let alone match, the ocean of campaign funding pooled behind DeWine.

And even if Whaley’s campaign could match DeWine’s in dollar-power, Ohio isn’t in the habit of denying Republican governors a second term. (That last happened in 1958, thanks to a cockamamie Right to Work for Less ballot issue that Ohioans squashed like a bug.)

True, the Senate contest between Youngstown-area Democrat Tim Ryan and Middletown native J.D. (James David) Vance remains a horse race – more on that down the road, as the election nears.

True also, an in-house, pre-election GOP fight over the Republican state chairmanship isn’t exactly auspicious for the party. Trash-talk at the country club is so regrettable.

Meanwhile, three contests for Ohio Supreme Court seats are, like the Vance-Ryan race, hard to gauge, but they’re crucial to both parties, especially the race for chief justice between incumbent Justices Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, and Sharon Kennedy, a Republican.

Vying for another term on the court is incumbent Republican Justice R. Patrick (Pat) DeWine, son of Mike DeWine. Justice DeWine is being challenged by Democratic Judge Marilyn Zayas, of the Ohio Court of Appeals (1st District), based in Cincinnati.

Also seeking re-election is incumbent Republican Justice Patrick Fischer, challenged by Democratic Judge Terri Jamison, of the Ohio Court of Appeals (10th District), based in Columbus.

In recent years, Ohio’s Supreme Court – historically, never ranked as one of the nation’s premier appellate courts – has gained prominence because of the courthouse war over Ohio’s Republican-rigged legislative and congressional districts. Moreover, the General Assembly’s drive to limit if not outright forbid abortion might eventually come before the high court.

As goes the governorship, so go the down-ticket statewide executive offices, attorney general, auditor of state, secretary of state and treasurer of state. Few voters can name the Republican incumbents in those officers and even fewer voters can name the Democratic nominees for those jobs.

State Rep. Jeff Crossman, a Greater Cleveland Democrat, is challenging Republican Attorney General David Yost.

Nelsonville City Auditor Taylor Sappington, a Democrat, is challenging Republican State Auditor Keith Faber.

Chelsea Clark, a Democrat who is a City Council member in suburban Cincinnati’s Forest Park, is challenging Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

And Marion’s Democratic mayor, Scott Schertzer, is challenging Republican State Treasurer Robert Sprague.

Each of the Democratic challengers is fighting an uphill battle, because of scanty campaign funding and because incumbency gives the Republicans whom they’re challenging, especially LaRose and Yost, the built-in capacity to generate free publicity. As for the General Assembly – the state Senate run by Republicans continuously since 1985, the House since 2011 – it will remain in the GOP’s hands. The real question is how manageable the chambers will be, especially the House, where a speakership election looms, and where some hard-right Republican newcomers may arrive after November’s election.

No sooner will Nov. 9′s votes be counted, and the results announced, then Campaign ‘24 will ensue – for the Senate seat Cleveland Democrat Sherrod Brown will likely seek to keep. Oh, and yes, there’s the small matter of the presidency that will also be on 2024′s ballot – possibly featuring Donald J. Trump.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at

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