Election analysis: Ohio primaries set up huge November battles to come

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The fewer than 25% of voters statewide who cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary set the stage for some major showdowns in November that will impact Ohioans’ lives in the national, state and local levels.

Below are some valuable takeaways from Tuesday’s vote and how it sets the stage for the months ahead — whether you care about hot-button national issues in Congress (immigration, national security), or meaty issues Ohio’s state government cares about (abortion, marijuana), or taxes and services right down to the street you live on (your school, your police, your potholes).

Statewide, about 22% of registered voters cast a ballot in Tuesday’s election. In area counties, turnout ranged from 19.6% to 31.2%.

U.S. Senate race

Ohioans will have an important choice in November between longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown on the left and Bernie Moreno on the right, who has the backing of former President Donald Trump.

Brown and Moreno will spend the next seven-plus months pumping up their respective bases while attempting to seek out and sway undecided voters. Expect a lot of ads. They will have outside help from national Democrat and Republican groups as both parties desperately want this seat in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, affecting just about every political issue in the country.

Moreno’s win in the Republican Senate primary on Tuesday was another pre-November reminder of Trump’s sway in Ohio as he triumphed over state Sen. Matt Dolan and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Dolan served more than a dozen years in Ohio’s Statehouse, was endorsed by repeat election-winning Gov. Mike DeWine and former U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, and his family owns baseball’s Cleveland Guardians. LaRose is a bronze-star winning former Green Beret, former state legislator, and current secretary of state.

Moreno is a successful businessman (car dealerships, blockchain) who has never held political office and eight years ago called Trump a “lunatic.” But three days before the election, Trump, who Moreno now praises, stood on a stage in Dayton and campaigned for Moreno. Weeks before that, Trump’s son stumped for him in West Chester Twp.

The result? Moreno 50.5%, Dolan 32.86%, LaRose 16.64%, according to final, unofficial results from the Ohio Secretary of State.

Presidential race

Yes, Ohioans voted for president Tuesday. But because Ohio’s primary comes fairly late in the process, Trump and incumbent Democrat Joe Biden had already clinched their parties’ nominations for the November election. If you want to read into these things, it was Biden’s 87% to Dean Phillips’ 13%. Trump got 79%, Nikki Haley 14%, and the other three 6% combined.

Trump has won Ohio twice previously, though.

U.S. House of Representatives

Amy Cox, Vanessa Enoch and Adam Miller won Democratic primaries Tuesday in their Congressional districts (OH-10, 8 and 15), setting up November races against Republican incumbents Mike Turner, Warren Davidson and Mike Carey, respectively.

Locally, Democrats are hoping that Cox’s emphatic win (63% of the vote in a four-way race) will spell good fortunes for the out-of-district scientist and former schoolteacher when she takes on longtime incumbent Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, this fall.

The Ohio 10th Congressional District — composed of Dayton, Springfield, Xenia and others — is winnable for Democrats, though Turner has proved his political savvy by again and again swatting away Democratic challengers.

In general, the road to unseat a local Congressional incumbent is uphill and littered with potholes. To make the gantlet even more daunting, the races will proceed using district maps that the Ohio Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional several times in recent years for favoring Republicans.

Ohio Statehouse

Speaking of maps, all of Tuesday’s Ohio Statehouse primaries used updated district maps created last year by the bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Commission. Many voters in November may be surprised to find they are in a different district than the last general election.

The way the lines are drawn mean the winners of the March primary in some districts essentially paved the way to victory in November. The Ohio Redistricting Commission calculated partisan lean when redrawing the maps, and identified some local districts with three times as many voters in the majority party versus the minority party.

Kyle Koehler won the Republican primary for Ohio Senate District 10 over Carolyn Destefani, according to the Oho Secretary of State.

District 10 covers the entirety of Clark, Greene and Clinton counties. The Ohio Redistricting Commission has District 10 leaning 26 percentage points toward Republicans. Koehler will go up against Democrat Daniel McGregor in the general election in November.

Koehler, a Springfield-based software engineer, formerly represented the area in the Ohio House for eight years, earned 66% of the vote. Destefani, an Air Force veteran who serves as a trustee for Greene County’s Sugarcreek Twp., earned 34% of the vote.

Koehler vied for the seat in the primary because Sen. Bob Hackett, R-London, is term-limited after eight years representing the district.

Ohio Supreme Court

There will be more wrestling for political control on the Ohio Supreme Court, but the Ohio Democratic Party is rejoicing that their pick, Lisa Forbes, won Tuesday’s only contested primary over Terri Jamison.

Come November, Ohio voters will decide on three of the seven bench seats. Democrats need to win all three to gain control of the court, and if Republicans win all three, the GOP will have a hefty advantage as the state’s top court is set to hear a plethora of cases revolving around Ohio’s 2023 abortion rights amendment, among other things.

County government leadership

Much focus in November will be on state and federal issues. One Clark County commission seat will be up for grabs in November, with Republican former Health Commissioner Charlie Patterson facing off against Democrat and former Springfield City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill.

Patterson beat three candidates by a significant margin to clinch the Republican primary on Tuesday.

According to final, unofficial results, Patterson won 43.26% of the votes, while Dave Marshall, local teacher and former campaign worker, received 22.75%; Matt Quesenberry, local project manager for a construction engineering company, won 23.39%; and William Lindsey, New Carlisle City Council member, had 10.6%.

First-time candidate Chris Clark led early and built on the margin as results continued to come in, scoring a victory against incumbent Clark County Sheriff Deborah Burchett in Tuesday’s Republican primary election for the top elected law enforcement job in the county.

According to final, unofficial results, Clark received 59.67% of the vote, while Burchett had 40.33%, a difference of just more than 3,000 votes.

Clark saw success across the county, picking up almost 80% of the vote in one area of Madison Twp., where he is from and serves as fire and EMS chief.

Tax levies for schools, cities

The Springfield – Clark CTC saw a levy that would have funded the local cost to build a new school facility for fail for a second time — its last chance to come up with the funds to then receive an Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) contribution of 62%, or about $38.7 million for the base part of the new building.

According to final, unofficial results, 53.57% of voters opposed the levy and 46.43% were supported the levy.

The school board will discuss options and decide how to move forward, according to a statement.

CTC has roughly a 60-year-old campus, among the oldest in the state. It wants to replace its seven existing buildings at 1901 Selma Road with a single, up-to-date facility that would include additional classroom facilities, equipment, furnishings and site improvements needed for additional enrollment.

Staff writers Jessica Orozco and Brooke Spurlock contributed to this report.