Ohio Sen. Shannon Jones’ re-election now will be unopposed in November, despite the efforts of labor and Democratic officials hoping to capitalize on her sponsorship of Senate Bill 5.
The lack of opposition against Jones — who some viewed as vulnerable on the heels of the repeal of the controversial law limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees — is a sore spot for political advocates anxious to mount campaigns against her and Republicans, including Gov. John Kasich, who backed the law that was repealed in 2011 by more than 60 percent of Ohio voters.
The failure to find an opponent for Jones is the result of a combination of factors, official said, ranging from legal limits placed on public employees seeking elected office to the power of incumbency — particularly in districts weighted toward the incumbent’s political party — to the high cost of mounting a challenge financially and personally.
“You have to have a much more solid opportunity to basically get people to put their lives on hold,” said John Green, executive director of The Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.
Jimmy Allen, the Democrat who filed to run against Jones in the Nov. 4 election, withdrew, and the deadline for replacing him has passed.
Last week, Allen, 65, of Carlisle, cited health and family issues as reasons for dropping out of the race.
“If I were 20 years younger, they would not have been able to run me off,” he said.”I think it’s a very sad state for us.”
Democrats in Warren County had tried to recruit potential candidates to fill the spot Allen had taken to hold the place on gubernatorial election ballots.
“I am disappointed. I did want her to have to answer to S.B. 5. A good chunk of the electorate did think she was wrong on that,” said Bethe Goldenfield, chair of the Warren County Democratic Party.
“I had been recruiting somebody since S.B. 5, because it was so unpopular,” Goldenfield said. In Warren County, among Ohio’s most conservative, 48.5 percent of voters supported the Issue 2 referendum.
“There was this bipartisan coming together against S.B. 5 that completely reversed what happened in 2010,” Goldenfield, when less than 28 percent of county voters cast ballots for Gov. Ted Strickland in his loss to Kasich.
Jones, R-Clearcreek Twp., said she had no second thoughts about her sponsorship of S.B. 5 and was preparing for a fall campaign, when she learned she would be unopposed in November.
“I assumed I would have an opponent in the election,” she said. “I’ve operated as I always do, which is get out and meet with constituents and talk about issues.”
Jones faced opposition in the GOP primary from Kelly Kohls, a tea party leader and former school board member in Springboro. Kohls testified in favor of S.B. 5 before taking on Jones as part of an alternative statewide ticket.
Ohio Senate District 7 includes parts of Hamilton and Butler counties but is predominantly in Warren County. Last week in Warren County, there were 33,893 Republicans, seven times the number of Democrats, 4,473, but less than a third as many as the 108,077 non-partisan registered voters.
Goldenfield said recruiting efforts were limited by the Hatch Act, which prevents working police and firemen from holding elected office. She was unable to find retirees ready to join the race.
“I really wanted a first responder,” she said.
Goldenfield also cited the tough prospects of running against Jones, twice elected to the Ohio House of Representatives before her 2010 election to the state Senate (with almost 77 percent of the vote in Warren County). Jones’ committee also has more than $100,000 in campaign funds on hand and the backing of the state GOP, which paid for several pieces of literature in her race with Kohls.
“Unless there’s some sort of major miracle, it’s going to be very difficult for them to win,” Goldenfield said. “We will still remind the voters about Senate Bill 5.”
The lack of a race in Ohio Senate District 7 was typical across Ohio and the rest of the nation, particularly when incumbents are running in districts favoring their party, Green said.
“The way our districts are draw these days they are heavily Republican or Democrat. It’s very difficult to recruit someone to run in a district that is stacked against them,” he said.
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