Color the Valley deeper red
The election results in Mahoning and, particularly, Trumbull show the once-reliable Democratic counties are anything but that — and trends indicate they’ll turn even more Republican in coming years.
The biggest surprise is it has taken this long, as several other formerly Democratic stronghold counties in Ohio greatly changed.
To compete statewide, Democrats needed at least 60 percent of the vote in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Not that most of the statewide Democratic candidates had a chance in this election, but every one of them lost in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
That included Democrat Tim Ryan, who’s from Trumbull and has represented that county and Mahoning in the U.S. House for the past 20 years.
Ryan lost to Republican J.D. Vance by 6.56 percent statewide, according to unofficial results.
He did even worse in Trumbull, losing to Vance by 7.18 percent. Ryan was closer in Mahoning, where he lost by 3.45 percent, but this says a lot about how much the Mahoning Valley has changed in the past few years.
Gov. Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent, got 62.79 percent of the statewide vote, according to unofficial results. He did even better in Mahoning, where he got 65.25 percent of the vote, and in Trumbull with 66.61 percent of the vote.
A lot has changed in the past six years, in part due to the rise in popularity of former President Donald Trump.
The Valley’s state legislative delegation next year will have a single Democratic Party member. Before the 2018 election, Mahoning and Trumbull’s six legislative positions all were held by Democrats.
The switch to Republican already has occurred in Trumbull County despite frequent infighting among party members. Every Republican on Tuesday’s ballot in a contested race in Trumbull won.
Republican Denny Malloy beat Democrat Michael J. O’Brien, who previously won 28 straight elections going back four decades and is one of the area’s best known politicians, for county commissioner by 2.6 percent. Republican Martha Yoder won the county auditor race by 3.4 percent over Democrat Tod Latell, the sitting county recorder who comes from a family with a long political history in Trumbull.
Malloy and Yoder said they were successful with virtually no assistance from the county Republican Party.
“Not one single Republican Party officer was at our victory party,” Malloy said. “None of them attended any fundraisers for Martha or for me, and only one attended a fundraiser for Nick Santucci,” who won the 64th Ohio House District race. “The only thing the Trumbull Republican Party did was put a slate card in the (news)paper.”
He added that if the party had provided assistance, he, Yoder and Santucci would have won by even larger margins.
“I got more help from Tom McCabe and officers in Mahoning County than I did in Trumbull,” Malloy said. McCabe is the Mahoning County Republican Party chairman.
Yoder said: “The local party was of no help to me, Denny and Nick. Some officers didn’t want to support us. We would have won by more with a united party.”
Trumbull Republican Chairman Michael Bollas said Tuesday’s results “clearly show we’ve turned the corner, and we are in a red county.”
He said: “I don’t think it had anything to do with Trump. It had to do with values in our county.”
Asked about the criticism from Malloy and Yoder, Bollas said: “I’m not going to get into those issues. We supported all the candidates. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Bollas said he’s looking to 2024 when many county offices, almost all held by Democrats, will be on the ballot.
So is McCabe in Mahoning.
“We’ll come back in 2024 and do even better,” he said. “There’s momentum and excitement, and it’s growing.”
All the statewide candidates won Mahoning County with state Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, and state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, being re-elected. Also, Republican Geno DiFabio, running in his first race, came within 204 votes of beating three-term Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti, a Democrat. There are still numerous uncounted votes in that race.
Unlike Bollas, McCabe said Trump’s success in the area is a huge reason for that momentum.
“The Trump voters stayed with us, and it’s had a ripple effect,” he said. “Trumbull and Mahoning are turning red. It’s making it tougher for Democrats to win.”
Skolnick covers politics for The Vindicator and the Tribune Chronicle.