Some Democrats in Ohio are trying to spin Tuesday’s election in a positive way.
Yes, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown was re-elected, the party’s two state Supreme Court candidates won, and Democrats gained four seats in the Ohio House.
But Brown was running against a clearly weak and unprepared opponent in Republican Jim Renacci and won by 6.4 percent. [Brown said during his Vindicator endorsement meeting that he didn’t believe polls that had him up double-digits. He knew what he was talking about.]
As for the Supreme Court candidates, those are impressive victories, but judicial candidates run on Ohio general election ballots without political party affiliations so it’s hard to say how much credit Democrats can get for that.
Also, there’s a huge dropoff in votes for the Supreme Court races.
In Mahoning County, 88,846 votes were cast in the governor’s race. There were 71,923 and 75,048 votes in the two Supreme Court races, and the higher amount was largely because voters backed Mary DeGenaro of Poland, an incumbent and Republican who won in Mahoning County but lost the state.
Regarding the net gain of four seats in the Ohio House, it still will only bring the number of Democrats there next year to 37 out of 99 positions.
The party needs to realize Ohio is a red state when it comes to state politics and is only getting redder.
Democrats had a good slate of statewide executive office candidates and lost every race.
Democrats blame gerrymandering for not picking up any congressional seats Tuesday and that’s a valid argument though a decade ago under a Republican-drawn map, Democrats had a majority of the U.S. House positions in the state.
Also, it doesn’t explain the executive office defeats as those are statewide races.
There was a blue wave nationally in U.S. House races giving Democrats control of the lower chamber beginning in January. That wave didn’t come to Ohio.
When the 2022 statewide election occurs, Republicans will have controlled statewide executive offices for 28 of the last 32 years.
This last election was supposed to be a great opportunity for Democrats to win some of those races.
There was the ECOT scandal, the Republican speaker of the state House resigned while under investigation, the statewide Democrats for the most part raised more money than their Republican opponents, and as I mentioned, a national trend favoring Democrats.
But none of that mattered.
The results showed that.
Even in reliably blue Mahoning County, the outcome was disappointing for Democrats.
For the most part, Democrats won in the county, but the margins of victory were a lot smaller than usual.
Among the five statewide executive office Democrats, Rich Cordray, who ran for governor, had the highest turnout and it was only 54.7 percent.
The lowest was Kathleen Clyde, the failed secretary of state candidate, with 51.6 percent.
Also, the only Democratic held Ohio House seat to go red occurred in Mahoning County with Republican Don Manning beating Democrat Eric Ungaro by 409 votes, 0.78 of a percent, in the 59th District, according to unofficial results.
Provisional ballots still need to be counted, but it’s asking a lot for Ungaro to make up that deficit based on those votes.
The district takes in the growing Republican areas of the county, but still probably leans slightly Democratic.
Not to take anything away from Manning, but he ran two years ago against Democrat John Boccieri and received only 41.6 percent of the vote.
Manning received help from statewide Republicans for a direct mail effort, and Democrats failed to see his victory coming.
Mahoning also has the dubious distinction of being the majority county in the only state Senate seat held by a Democrat to be won by a Republican.
You could see this one coming for a while.
When I was at a campaign stop for now Gov.-elect Mike DeWine at Mahoning County Republican Party headquarters, there was a loud and steady “Rulli, Rulli” chant even though there were several other GOP candidates there.
The seat was open because Democrat Joe Schiavoni couldn’t seek re-election under the state’s term-limits law.
When Schiavoni ran for his second term in 2010, Republicans couldn’t even find an opponent to challenge him.
This year’s race pitted Boccieri, a seasoned officeholder, against Republican Michael Rulli, known for his family-owned Rulli Bros. grocery store chain.
Statewide Republicans invested heavily in this race while Boccieri raised a lot of money.
Boccieri underperformed in Mahoning County, getting only 53.8 percent of the vote, a lead of about 7,000 votes over Rulli. Overall, 89,519 voted in that race, the most of any in Tuesday’s election in the county.
But in deep-red Columbiana County, with a much smaller population, Rulli got 68.6 percent of the vote, beating Boccieri by more than 13,000 votes.
You can argue that the race was won in Columbiana, but I believe it was won in Mahoning with Rulli keeping it close there.
However, you can’t deny the impressive showing of Rulli and other Republicans in Columbiana County.
Dave Johnson, that county’s Republican chairman, has taken Columbiana from a 50-50 area less than a decade ago and made it a 65-35 – sometimes even stronger – Republican area.
As for Mahoning County, and even more for Trumbull County, Democrats can no longer rely on consistently getting 60 percent to 65 percent of the vote from the former solid blue counties.
If you’re a Democrat, that erosion is bad news for many years to come. If you’re a Republican, the Mahoning Valley is one less place you need to fear when it comes to elections.