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Dems struggle to find candidates

Democrats likely will have a difficult time next year in Ohio statewide races with defeating Republicans, but with a lack of announced candidates in several races, they’re only making it that much more challenging.

The Democratic Party’s statewide track record over the past three decades hasn’t been good.

The party’s last big year was 2006, when it swept all of executive branch races except state auditor, and Sherrod Brown soundly defeated incumbent Republican Mike DeWine for U.S. Senate.

Since then, Richard Cordray won a 2008 race for attorney general, filling Marc Dann’s unexpired term, Brown won re-election in 2012 and 2018, and Democrats won three of four seats on the Ohio Supreme Court in the 2018 and 2020 elections combined, though those candidates run without a political party affiliation in the general.

Of those three Supreme Court victories, Democrats defeated two Republican incumbents.

But statewide, a Democrat identified by political party hasn’t knocked off a Republican incumbent since Brown during the 2006 blue wave.

On the 2022 ballot are Republican incumbents for governor, attorney general, auditor, secretary of state, treasurer and two of the three Supreme Court seats.

Also, unlike previous years, candidates for Supreme Court will have their party affiliation included on the general election ballot as Republicans pushed through a bill for that identification after getting beat in the past two election cycles.

The only open seats are for Supreme Court chief justice with Republican Maureen O’Connor, barred from seeking re-election by Ohio’s age limit for judges; and for U.S. Senate with Republican Rob Portman, who is leaving office.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, and Morgan Harper, a lawyer and activist who lost a 2020 congressional primary, are running as Democrats to succeed Portman. Numerous Republicans also are lining up for same.

Justice Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat serving on the Supreme Court since January, is going to run for chief justice and will face Justice Sharon Kennedy, a Republican who won her second six-year term on the court last year.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley are vying for Democratic nomination for governor next year.

Chelsea Clark, a Forest Park (Hamilton County) city councilwoman, announced she’s running next year for secretary of state.

So what about attorney general, auditor, treasurer and the two other Supreme Court seats?

“We are still talking with potential candidates,” said Matt Keyes, Ohio Democratic Party spokesman. “We’re recruiting. We’ll have a strong, diverse ticket.”

In most years, there were announced Democratic candidates for every statewide seat by now.

Not having the ticket even close to filled at this point is an issue for Democrats.

Keyes said the party isn’t worried.

“Every year is different,” he said. “There’s a couple of issues. Redistricting is one consideration. If a candidate is considering a statewide race or another race (such as Congress or the state Legislature), they’re waiting for maps. The pandemic is another issue. We’re having conversations. We’re not concerned. We’ll have a strong slate. We’ve not put a timeline on it. The (filing) deadline is February. We’re not wanting to have a ticket just to have a ticket.”

Keyes said Republicans are vulnerable because of the $1 billion corruption scandal related to the passage of House Bill 6.

“When we get a ticket together, we’ll have a clear message on who’s fighting for people and who’s fighting for special interests,” he said.

Other issues making Democrats reluctant include it being nearly impossible to beat incumbent Republicans in past years. The party doesn’t have a strong bench and it’s tough to raise money for down-ticket races.

The party’s best statewide bets are U.S. House members — there are only four and Ryan, who is one of them, is seeking the Senate seat — as well as former members of Congress or the state Legislature, which hasn’t worked out for Democrats in the past, or big-city mayors. Of the latter, Whaley and Cranley are running for governor.

That leaves Democrats with few options.

Skolnick covers politics for The Vindicator and the Tribune Chronicle.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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