Home Opinion OPINION: Ohio could be turning red… permanently

OPINION: Ohio could be turning red… permanently

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Photo via Michael Vadon on Flickr.

Although it’s been known as a swing state, opinion writer Ben Peters says if current trends continue, Ohio could turn red for good.

The 2016 presidential election marked the first time in 12 years that Ohio has gone red, with Ohio’s electoral votes all going toward President Donald Trump. Congressionally, Republican Sen. Rob Portman defeated Democrat Ted Strickland and almost every district in the state voted a Republican into the House of Representatives. Cleveland also hosted the Republican National Convention during the presidential primaries.

At the state level, both houses of the Ohio General Assembly and the position of governor are controlled by Republicans. On Ohio’s Supreme Court bench, all of the justices are Republicans except for a single Democrat. Two Republicans out of eight total justices were elected in 2016.

Despite the fact that at the state level, Ohio’s legislature is traditionally a Republican majority it could be possible that Ohio, the traditional swing state, is becoming a Republican stronghold.

The sole Democratic Ohio Supreme Court Justice and former Ohio University Bobcat William “Bill” O’Neill debated making a 2018 gubernatorial run for nearly a year. After he was tipped off that the former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray may soon enter the race, O’Neill held back his announcement for fear of losing the race to Cordray.

Recently, O’Neill has grown impatient waiting for Cordray to enter and has said he is strongly considering entering the now very crowded 2018 gubernatorial race. He has now rented the Chagrin Falls Township Hall for Oct. 29 to presumably announce his entering of the race.

According to the Ohio Constitution, judges who are 70 or older may not be elected or appointed to the court. O’Neill had just turned 70 in May with still one year left in his 6-year incumbency as judge. If he chooses to run for governor, he will have to step down from the bench prematurely. This will allow Gov. John Kasich to appoint a Republican replacement to the court in order to finish up O’Neill’s term, effectively making the court consist entirely of Republicans.

Because there is only one year left in O’Neill’s term, Kasich will likely appoint somebody of little importance in his place to run the clock out before the judicial primaries for that seat begin. It is not likely that a Democrat will win the seat since both seats up in 2016 were taken by Republicans.

If O’Neill does run for office, it will mean that nearly every high-level government position in the state of Ohio will be controlled by Republicans, save for a few districts in the House of Representatives and Democrat Sherrod Brown’s senate seat (which is also up for grabs in 2018), leading into the gubernatorial race. While this may be a direct result of aggressive Republican gerrymandering, things do not look bright for the Democratic Party.

The 2018 gubernatorial election leaves Democrats with an opportunity to reclaim the state. Its results will tell us a great deal about Ohio’s political identity going forward. For now, it is looking like Ohio may be slowly shedding its historical status as a swing state and is moving towards Republicanism reigning supreme.

Correction: A previous version of this article spelled William O’Neill’s name incorrectly.

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One Comment

  1. Confused Reader

    October 25, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    First of all, the name is spelled “O’Neill” not “O’Neil.” Second, the author fails to argue (or even explain) how a single retirement by an Ohio Supreme Court justice––who is generally laughed at by most Ohio Democrats and isn’t held in good favor by most party faithful––implies doom for an entire state party. Then, the author’s claim that Ohio Democrats aren’t likely to win a state Supreme Court race in 2018 “since both seats up in 2016 were taken by Republicans” is also really strange. Electorates change from year to year. (Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and Republicans swept statehouses in 2010… does that really need explaining?) 2016 was bad for Democrats in the midwest. Most people will agree that the electorate is likely to look much more favorable Democratic in 2018 than it did in 2016. It’s true that Ohio is trending red, but that’s thanks to a state population that is becoming older, whiter and less-educated. Unfortunately the article doesn’t delve into any of that. It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with Bill O’Neill.

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