TOLEDO — Ohio faces a mixed bag of political races this year, with contests ranging from governor all the way down to local judgeships.
With 2017 election results barely cold and the new year hardly begun, already both Republican and Democratic voters are challenged to support candidates in the May 8 primary.
Nationally, Democrats are trying to convert the low approval ratings of President Trump into success in the off-year congressional elections.
Melissa Miller, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University, cited the well-respected Cook Political Report as saying that Ohio’s 4th and 5th congressional districts — held by U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan of Urbana and Bob Latta of Bowling Green, respectively — are considered solid Republican seats in 2018.
“Having said that, it would be unwise for any Republican incumbent to get too comfortable on Capitol Hill in the next 10 months,” Ms. Miller said.
She said the President’s historically low approval ratings will encourage Democrats to paint their Republican opponents as a mirror image of President Trump, “deservedly or not.”
David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron, said he believes 2018 will be a “tsunami” election in favor of Democrats in many other states, but will be harder in Ohio, where the starkly pro-Republican redistricting of 2011 has made it difficult to mount a serious challenge against any of Ohio’s 12 Republican congressmen. The same is true of Ohio’s four Democratic congressmen, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo.
“You have to have candidates that are legitimate candidates that can raise money, that the party establishment is willing to get behind. It helps if they have some prior political experience and aren’t total amateurs. That’s hard in a place like Ohio because people are unwilling to run knowing the deck is stacked against them,” Mr. Cohen said.
But just because the deck is stacked against them, that doesn’t mean Democrats are going to concede re-election to Mr. Latta and Mr. Jordan.
Mr. Jordan’s likely Democratic opponent, retired Oberlin teacher Janet Garrett, ran and lost against Mr. Jordan in 2014 and 2016, and is already campaigning hard on social media.
Maumee resident and investment fund manager Michael Galbraith has been campaigning to take on Mr. Latta as the Democratic nominee. Mr. Galbraith said he expects to raise more money than Mr. Latta’s two previous opponents, at least. He said he’s raised about $50,000.
James Neu, the Democratic candidate in 2016, reported no money raised or spent, while Robert Fry in 2014 reported fundraising of $59,444. Mr. Latta’s 2012 opponent, Angela Zimmann, spent $471,028. In each of those races, Mr. Latta spent more than $712,000, with money left over.
Asked how he would do better than Ms. Zimmann, Mr. Galbraith said he believes circumstances have changed.
“She ran a very, very hard campaign and I think we have to look at the circumstances for the time, from 2008 onwards there was a turn to the more conservative side in the district and now we’re seeing a turn in the opposite direction,” Mr. Galbraith said.
A spokesman for Mr. Latta said the seven-term congressman is representing the district in line with the wishes of his constituents.
“Congressman Latta has represented the values of Ohio’s 5th District in Washington by helping pass the largest tax cut package in a generation, supporting the National Defense Authorization Act which gave our nation’s troops the largest pay increase in years, and voting to repeal the individual mandate which has penalized working families that can’t afford Obamacare’s skyrocketing premiums,” said campaign spokesman Drew Griffin. “His focus is on continuing to advocate for conservative solutions, providing exceptional constituent service, and ensuring Ohio’s voice is heard in Congress.”
Ohio politics was jolted on Friday when Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel announced that he would not seek the Republican nomination to run against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mr. Mandel cited his wife’s unspecified illness.
Mr. Mandel’s departure left Republicans scrambling to decide whether to line up behind political newcomer Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons, who has been campaigning for the Republican nomination for months, or consider a challenge from GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Jim Renacci, a three-term congressman from the Akron area, or two-term Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.
Much of the focus of 2018 will be on Ohio’s governor race, with multiple candidates in both parties vying for the nomination to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Some see former Ohio Treasurer and Attorney General Richard Cordray as the Democrats’ best hope to recapture the governor’s office, though he faces competition from Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former Cincinnati-area Rep. Connie Pillich, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Barberton, and state Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill.
On the Republican side, state Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted recently moved to claim the front-runner label for governor when they merged their campaigns, with Mr. DeWine seeking the governorship and Mr. Husted the post of lieutenant governor. They face Ms. Taylor and Mr. Renacci in the May 8 primary, assuming both of them are still in the race by then.