Election analysis: Ohio primaries set up huge November battles to come

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The fewer than 25% of voters statewide who cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary set the stage for some major showdowns in November that will impact Ohioans’ lives in the national, state and local levels.

Below are some valuable takeaways from Tuesday’s vote and how it sets the stage for the months ahead — whether you care about hot-button national issues in Congress (immigration, national security), or meaty issues Ohio’s state government cares about (abortion, marijuana), or taxes and services right down to the street you live on (your school, your police, your potholes).

Statewide, about 22% of registered voters cast a ballot in Tuesday’s election. In area counties, turnout ranged from 19.6% to 31.2%.

U.S. Senate race

Ohioans will have an important choice in November between longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown on the left and Bernie Moreno on the right, who has the backing of former President Donald Trump.

Brown and Moreno will spend the next seven-plus months pumping up their respective bases while attempting to seek out and sway undecided voters. Expect a lot of ads. They will have outside help from national Democrat and Republican groups as both parties desperately want this seat in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, affecting just about every political issue in the country.

Moreno’s win in the Republican Senate primary on Tuesday was is another pre-November reminder of Trump’s sway in Ohio as he triumphed over state Sen. Matt Dolan and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Dolan served more than a dozen years in Ohio’s Statehouse, was endorsed by repeat election-winning Gov. Mike DeWine and former U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, and his family owns baseball’s Cleveland Guardians. LaRose is a bronze-star winning former Green Beret, former state legislator, and current secretary of state.

Moreno is a successful businessman (car dealerships, blockchain) who has never held political office and eight years ago called Trump a “lunatic.” But three days before the election, Trump, who Moreno now praises, stood on a stage in Dayton and campaigned for Moreno. Weeks before that, Trump’s son stumped for him in West Chester Twp.

The result? Moreno 50.5%, Dolan 32.86%, LaRose 16.64%, according to final, unofficial results from the Ohio Secretary of State.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Presidential race

Yes, Ohioans voted for president Tuesday. But because Ohio’s primary comes fairly late in the process, Trump and incumbent Democrat Joe Biden had already clinched their parties’ nominations for the November election. If you want to read into these things, it was Biden’s 87% to Dean Phillips’ 13%. Trump got 79%, Nikki Haley 14%, and the other three 6% combined.

Trump has won Ohio twice previously in November, though.

U.S. House of Representatives

Amy Cox, Vanessa Enoch and Adam Miller won Democratic primaries Tuesday in their Congressional districts (OH-10, 8 and 15), setting up November races against Republican incumbents Mike Turner, Warren Davidson and Mike Carey, respectively.

Locally, Democrats are hoping that Cox’s emphatic win (63% of the vote in a four-way race) will spell good fortunes for the out-of-district scientist and former schoolteacher when she takes on longtime incumbent Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, this fall.

The Ohio 10th Congressional District — composed of Dayton, Springfield, Xenia and others — is winnable for Democrats, though Turner has proved his political savvy by again and again swatting away Democratic challengers.

Davidson, who represents Butler County, easily defeated his challenger in the primary.

In general, the road to unseat a local Congressional incumbent is uphill and littered with potholes. To make the gantlet even more daunting, the races will proceed using district maps that the Ohio Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional several times in recent years for favoring Republicans.

Ohio Statehouse

Speaking of maps, all of Tuesday’s Ohio Statehouse primaries used updated district maps created last year by the bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Commission. Many voters in November may be surprised to find they are in a different district than the last general election.

The way the lines are drawn mean the winners of the March primary in some districts essentially paved the way to victory in November. The Ohio Redistricting Commission calculated partisan lean when redrawing the maps, and identified some local districts with three times as many voters in the majority party versus the minority party.

Statehouse primaries in Butler County resulted in one incumbent losing her race to retain her seat.

Rep. Sara Carruthers, who filed am election complaint about dark money targeting her, lost her bid to continue representing the 47th Ohio House District.

She lost to local pastor Diane Mullins, a Hanover Twp. resident who earned 53.1% of the final, unofficial votes for the GOP nomination. Mullins advances to meet Vanessa Cummings, an Oxford Twp. business owner and pastor who was uncontested in the Democratic Party’s primary.

Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., won his primary with 60.2% of the unofficial vote total in Ohio’s 4th Senate District GOP race.

Lang beat former state lawmaker Candice Keller and Mark Morgan, both of Middletown, who received 27.3% and 12.5%, respectively.

In November, Lang faces Thomas Cooke, of Oxford Twp., the Democratic Party’s candidate.

Another incumbent, Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., also won easily, receiving 83.7% of the unofficial vote totals in the 46th Ohio House District race to beat Zachary Stacy, of Monroe, a first-time candidate.

Benjamin McCall, of Liberty Twp., unopposed in the Democratic Party’s primary race, will challenge Hall for the seat in November.

Ohio Supreme Court

There will be more wrestling for political control on the Ohio Supreme Court, but the Ohio Democratic Party is rejoicing that their pick, Lisa Forbes, won Tuesday’s only contested primary over Terri Jamison.

Come November, Ohio voters will decide on three of the seven bench seats. Democrats need to win all three to gain control of the court, and if Republicans win all three, the GOP will have a hefty advantage as the state’s top court is set to hear a plethora of cases revolving around Ohio’s 2023 abortion rights amendment, among other things.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Tax levies for schools

Officials in Fairfield Schools said they would make planned cuts to programs, busing and staff after Tuesday’s 6.9-mill continuing levy failed by a 55% to 45% margin.

A spokeswoman for the district said the board of education will make the cuts previously outlined before next school year and also consider placing a new levy on the ballot later this year.

Staff writer Michael D. Pitman and Contributing Writer Michael D. Clark contributed to this report.