Thomas Suddes: Looking over the 2022 field in Ohio, and figuring the odds

Thomas Suddes -

A year out from November 2022’s statewide election is as good a time as any to risk predicting who’ll run for what, and win, subject to Ohio’s May 3 primary election.

U.S. senator: The Republican nominee will be former State Treasurer Josh Mandel or “Hillbilly Elegy” author and entrepreneur J.D. (James David) Vance. Other Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate nomination are state Sen. Matt Dolan of Chagrin Falls, Greater Cleveland entrepreneurs Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno, and former Republican State Chair Jane Timken of Canton.

The Democratic nominee will be U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of suburban Warren. Ryan’s being challenged for the nomination by Columbus Democrat Morgan Harper.

Next year’s election will be a mid-presidential-ter­m election, with Democrat Joe Biden in the White House. Political lore says candidates of the non-presidential party do well in midterm elections (e.g., Virginia’s gubernatorial election). Advantage: Republicans Mandel or Vance, unless gasoline prices fall and food prices at least flatten, in which case Ryan has a fighting chance.

Governor: Incumbent Republican Mike DeWine versus former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley or former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. No one likes a family fight more than Democrats do, so the Cranley-Whaley race will be spirited.

DeWine’s GOP challengers (e.g., ex-Rep. Jim Renacci, of Wadsworth) nip at the governor’s heels, but DeWine, a moderate conservative, has been tacking rightward to soothe the GOP’s rightmost wing. (Good luck with that: There’s no pleasing some people.) Still, Republicans will renominate DeWine.

And Democrats should remember this: Leaving aside DeWine’s good stewardship of Ohio’s finances and wise quarterbacking of Ohio’s COVID-19 response, the last time a Republican governor failed to win re-election in Ohio was in 1958 — 63 years ago. That’s when Republican Gov. C. William O’Neill was unseated by Toledo Democrat Michael V. DiSalle, thanks to Ohio’s labor movement, now a shadow of what it was.

Yes, the House Bill 6/FirstEnergy scandal is a blot on DeWine’s administration. But the refusal of our scaredy-cat General Assembly to fully repeal HB 6 suggests Statehouse insiders think the bill may be causing less political damage than initially thought.

Other statewide elected executive officers, all Republicans, on 2022’s ballot: Attorney General David Yost, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, State Auditor Keith Faber and State Treasurer Robert Sprague. There’s no reason to believe they’re in trouble, though LaRose and Faber, with DeWine, played possum when Lima Republicans Robert Cupp (the Ohio House’s speaker) and Matt Huffman (the Senate’s president) gerrymandered General Assembly districts.

Supreme Court chief justice: Justices Jennifer Brunner (a Democrat) and Sharon Kennedy (a Republican) each want to succeed retiring Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. For the first time in more than 100 years, party labels will accompany the names of Ohio Supreme Court candidates on the ballot. Conventional wisdom is that Ohio’s unlabeled Supreme Court ballot benefited Republicans. (Democrats last controlled the court in 1986.) But the GOP-run legislature, which added party labels to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals ballots, evidently doesn’t believe that.

Even with the new ballot format, though, judicial candidates can’t say much of anything when they campaign, which means voters will still have to play name games. Kennedy will likely note, as before, that she’s “the Republican Kennedy,” and Brunner will get some traction with her German American surname in a state where a plurality of Caucasian voters has German roots.

The General Assembly: Come what may in assorted courtrooms over the gerrymander, Republicans have an advantage in money and history and will likely keep control of both the state Senate and the Ohio House. No one wants to say it out loud, but House Democrats – like House Republicans from 1973 through 1994 – appear to have become accustomed to being the House’s minority party, as they have been in Ohio’s Senate since 1985.

Ultimately, like or loathe what GOP General Assembly members do – and there’s lots to dislike – Republicans must govern, despite faction fights, and that takes work. But it also attracts donations. In contrast, Democrats get to criticize the GOP majority (justified, often as not) without breaking into a sweat.

At this writing, it’s likely that Republicans will emerge next November with intact majorities in Ohio’s House and Senate. Then, maybe, a full GOP bench of statewide executive officers, plus GOP legislative majorities, will stop politicking over irrelevancies like guns to address this stark fact:

From 1959 through 2020, real per-capita personal income in Ohio grew at an average annual rate of 2.07% – ranking 47th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia; Ohioans have been losing ground for more than three generations.

That’s the statewide issue, or should be, in 2022, especially in Northeast Ohio and Appalachia: Which candidates can walk their talk and usher the most Ohioans to better times?

Thomas Suddes

Thomas Suddes is a member of the Cleveland Dealer editorial board. Reach him at:, 216-408-9474

Thomas Suddes is a member of the Cleveland Dealer editorial board. Reach him at:, 216-408-9474

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