Statewide Dems won in Mahoning, Trumbull, but not by strong enough margins

By David Skolnick


The statewide Democratic ticket won in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, but the once-reliable Democratic area didn’t back the party’s candidates by large enough margins to offset strong wins in Republican strongholds.

And the Democratic and Republican chairmen in Mahoning County said President Donald Trump was a contributing factor to the GOP victories.

For decades, Democratic statewide candidates could count on the two counties to deliver at least 60 percent votes for them. But those days are apparently over.

But the best Democrats could do in Mahoning for a statewide candidate – not including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown with 60.3 percent – was Rich Cordray, the gubernatorial candidate, with 54.7 percent. That was followed by Rob Richardson, the failed treasurer candidate, with 54.6 percent, and Zack Space, the unsuccessful auditor candidate, with 53 percent.

“Our brand is a little tarnished,” said Mahoning Democratic Chairman David Betras. “I think that having the president say we’re for open borders, which we’re not, and for socialism, which we’re not, kind of hurt us.”

An unusually subdued Betras said, “It’s very shocking. Mahoning County is leaning more red than it is leaning blue. I think Donald Trump has changed the whole dynamic. The national brand is tarnished. We have to regroup and figure out how to rebrand ourselves and separate ourselves from the national Democrats.”

Mahoning Republican Chairman Mark Munroe said, “We’re north of 45 percent in most statewide races in Mahoning County, which is historically good for Republicans.”

He added: “The impact of President Trump cannot be underestimated. Since 2016, the enthusiasm for President Trump and Republicans has helped to create the environment where Valley Republicans cannot just be competitive, but can win. President Trump has affected the political environment. There are more Republicans in the Valley in 2018 than in 2015 and that’s largely because of President Trump.”

Tuesday’s results came four years after the awful showing Democrats had in the two counties during the last gubernatorial election. In that race, Democrat Ed FitzGerald received 43 percent of the vote in Mahoning County and 41 percent in Trumbull.

In Trumbull County, the statewide races were even closer Tuesday than in Mahoning.

Besides Brown, the top Democratic statewide votegetter in Trumbull was Steve Dettelbach, the failed attorney general candidate, with 51.8 percent. Richardson got 51.7 percent, and Cordray received 51.5 percent of the vote.

Republican statewide candidates in Trumbull got between 45.6 percent and 48.5 percent of the vote.

“I’m encouraged overall as we’ve been fighting an uphill battle [against Democrats] in Trumbull County for about 50 years,” said Kevin Wyndham, the county’s Republican chairman. “The enthusiasm we saw building in the last three to four weeks has been tremendous.”

Columbiana County again was a reliable Republican stronghold with statewide candidates getting between 64.1 percent and 67.3 percent of the vote.

“When I saw early voting with Democrats up by 50,000 votes and our model was for them to be up 100,000, we were pretty ecstatic,” said Columbiana Republican Chairman Dave Johnson. “It was pretty big down here.”

Columbiana Democratic Chairman Nick Barborak said: “I’m disappointed. We’ve had several decades of almost uninterrupted Republican rule in the state and we’ve seen a certain level of corruption. It’s really time to hold those in control accountable. We’ve got a lot of work to do in Columbiana County.”

Interestingly, the two Democrats who ran for Ohio Supreme Court seats – though judges don’t run with party affiliations next to their name – won statewide even though incumbent Justice Mary DeGenaro, a Republican and a Poland resident, easily won in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

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