Ohio shifting red could impact federal resource allocation

U.S. Sen. Brown said national security and Ohio’s important military installations will keep state in spotlight.

Ohioans overwhelmingly voted Republican in Tuesday’s midterm election and continue to shift the state away from being considered a moderate state.

As a red state, Dayton-area residents and businesses can expect the policies of the last several years to continue, said Christopher Devine, a professor of political science at the University of Dayton. But on a national scale, veering from its moderate purple status could affect the resources allocated to Ohio, as politicians make decisions that position themselves for re-election.

“If this is a less important state in their perspective, then that might influence the very visible ways in which they pay attention to the state, but it also might influence the way that they make decisions about where to allocate money when it comes to a federal stimulus package or infrastructure spending or even decisions they make about the tax burden,” Devine said.

And interests of Ohioans whether farmers or small business owners who were once hot topics on the campaign trail may die down if Ohio is written off as being a safe Republican state.

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“Politicians tend to look ahead to the next election and it’s never really too soon,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who was re-elected Tuesday night and was one of the bright spots for Democrats, said he believes Ohio will remain in the national spotlight.

“Ohio will always be nationally significant because of all we have to offer the country — from our farms to our factories and so much more. Our military installations in particular play a critical role in keeping the country safe, Brown said. “National security is bigger than any one political party, and Ohio’s Democrats and Republicans will continue working together to deliver the resources our military installations need.”

The GOP saw several victories Tuesday in Ohio, including Republican Mike DeWine defeating Democrat Rich Cordray for governor and Republicans winning attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state and auditor seats. Republicans also won all Dayton region congressional and Ohio House seats.

For decades, Ohio has been known as a swing state — a competitive battleground for both Democrats and Republicans in close polls. But that seems to be changing with Ohioans voting red for major offices in the last three midterm elections. Of the past 40 governors, 18 have been Democrats, but Democrats have only held the governor seat four years since 1991.

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The Buckeye State’s demographics are changing, Devine said. At one time, Ohio was a replica of the nation, but the state has grown older and whiter. While black populations are similar, Ohio lags behind the nation with only 3.8 percent of residents being Hispanic or Latino compared to more than 18 percent across the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

And urban areas are becoming more Democrat, while rural areas increasingly favor Republicans, leaving suburbs with changing demographics as the deciders.

After a year of heavy anti-President Donald Trump sentiment across the nation, Cedarville professor of political science Mark Caleb Smith said the Democratic party will question its strategies over the next few years.

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“You’d think that if there was going to be a year that the Democrats were going to break through in Ohio at all levels, it would have been this year,” he said.

Instead, Ohio is ground zero for Trump Republicans, said John Feehery, a former senior House Republican aide.

“Just like in the early 1980s when nobody took Ronald Reagan seriously, we have to acknowledge that in Ohio, Donald Trump has seriously captured the sentiments of Ohio voters,” said Dennis Eckart, a former Democratic congressman in Cleveland. “There was not a competitive race in Ohio. Period.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said the overall results were “very disappointing,” especially after Democrats ran good races and saw strong turnout.

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Democrats did have some victories, including the re-election of Brown and the election of two Democrats to Ohio Supreme Court seats.

But the Buckeye state didn’t see the same results as the nation, with Democrats gaining at least 29 seats for control of the U.S. House of Representatives. As states like Texas, Georgia and Virginia begin turning purple and leaning left in some instances, Ohio has leaned the other way, Smith said.

“Especially in the U.S. House, you saw some of those suburban house seats similar to those that we have here in Ohio…you see them flipped to the Democratic party, and that did not happen in Ohio,” Smith said. “The world is changing politically and last night is a good indicator of it.”

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But Devine said it’s not time to worry yet about drastic changes to Ohio’s importance on the national playing field because state narratives can change quickly.

“There’s a lot of talk now from many people…discussing the possibility that Ohio is just not a competitive presidential state anymore, or even competitive in other federal elections like the Senate…and that may seem very real now. But if we get to 2020 and it’s looking like the Democratic candidate is pretty competitive with Donald Trump in the polls, you can bet that the candidates will be showing up there.”

Reporter Jack Torry and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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