Republicans may be panicking over Ohio’s special election results


By Nathaniel Swigger - Associate Professor of Political Science, The Ohio State University

Ohio’s special election to fill the seat of retiring Republican Congressman Pat Tiberi was too close to call by the morning after the election. Republican Troy Balderson’s lead was less than 1 percent ahead of his opponent, Democrat Danny O’Connor. Provisional and absentee ballots are being counted.

The results in the election, like previous special elections this cycle in the Georgia 6th Congressional District and Pennsylvania’s 18th, signal that Democrats are energized and fielding quality candidates even in places that have not been competitive for them in recent election cycles.

The story of this special election has become familiar across the country: Democrats are angry, motivated and active even in districts that have traditionally been safely Republican. Meanwhile, Republicans continue to enjoy advantages in congressional elections.

These advantages are mainly due to gerrymandering, which has been easier for Republicans because their voters are spread out across suburban and rural areas in a way that lets Republicans control more space. Those advantages have given Balderson a slight lead, but Republicans across the country may be concerned after this election.

This was supposed to be easy

In the 2010 elections, Republicans won the Ohio governor’s race and control of the state legislature. They used that power to redraw congressional districts in their favor, rendering districts like the OH-12 largely uncompetitive. President Donald Trump carried the district by 11 points in 2016.

That environment meant that Democrats faced significant barriers even with Tiberi’s retirement. And Republicans seemed to do all the right things to ensure they kept the seat. Balderson is a fine candidate. He has a resume as a reliable Republican state legislator and has played by the rules. He holds mainstream Republican positions and avoids extremist rhetoric.

He is not a Rick Saccone, the firebrand who lost to Conor Lamb in a Pennsylvania special election earlier this year. Nor is he a Roy Moore, the controversial Senate candidate who lost the special Alabama election after allegations of sexual assault and statutory rape came out.

The Republican Party, at both state and national levels, got heavily engaged in this special election. They spent a lot of money on the race, particularly in the last weeks of the campaign. Millions of dollars were spent on television ads, saturating the airwaves at a level usually reserved for presidential elections in the days leading up to the election.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both held rallies in support of Balderson, and he received endorsements from Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Gov. John Kasich. The Ohio Republican Party was as active and united as they could be.

The midterm environment

The party not in control of the White House tends to do better in midterm elections, so it should come as no surprise that Democrats in Ohio were energized. One common explanation for this is that the difficulty of turning campaign promises into real results drives down enthusiasm among voters who become disappointed by their party’s struggles.

At the same time, enthusiasm rises among voters who see the governing party’s failures as confirmation of their own beliefs. This dynamic is, of course, exacerbated by President Trump’s historic unpopularity.

There are dozens of other House seats currently held by Republicans that will be at least as vulnerable as Ohio’s 12th Congressional District in November. Many things went right for Republicans in this special election: a strong candidate, lots of advertising, and strong party unity among key actors. They probably put forth their best possible effort – yet it is still too close to call.

Will Republicans be able to devote resources to all of those other races? If not, or if those resources aren’t enough, then Democrats could make strong gains this year.

Tact, Talent & Tenacity

By James F. Burns

Contributing Columnist

A potent personality—plus tact, talent, and tenacity—took Mary Hosbrook from the farm to a career as an artist and entrepreneur. Her life linked the 1860s to the 1960s, a century of expanding civil rights and women asserting their place in society. Mary Hosbrook, my great-aunt, was a pioneer in this post-Civil War period.

Educated at an art institute, one of Mary’s oil paintings made its way to the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, D.C., and she helped carve the pipe organ panels in Cincinnati’s Music Hall. But a single train trip provided a platform for Mary’s embrace of life, new experiences, and social change.

Mary boarded the train in rural Ohio, bound for a new job as an art instructor in Virginia. The sun was already setting, the year was 1895, and no one tells her story better than Mary Hosbrook herself. Come along for the ride.

“The moon was so lovely that I looked out the window until 11 o’clock. Then we changed trains at a little two-for-a-cent station—Paris was the name, who’d a thought it—where the railroad agent was so excessively polite that I feared he was going to carry me bodily in to make me sit down. I got acquainted with two girls from Iowa who were going to Cumberland Gap to teach in a mission school, and we had a jolly time.

“There was a blind musician on the train who gave us quite a concert. He sang a song about a woman’s tongue, and, as we had been having quite a gay time, I think one old fat man had called for it on purpose. We cheered the musician, and let the fat man pay him which he did.”

This scene of songfest took place as the train wound its way through the nighttime darkness of Kentucky, arriving at Cumberland Gap at sunrise. For Mary, the fun was just beginning. The train tunnel had collapsed.

“When we got to Cumberland Gap, they told us we would have to cross the mountain in a wagon. The tunnel through it caves in continually, and they were repairing it. We got out at five in the morning and into spring wagons with black covers. The horses were bony and so were the drivers. I climbed into one with six men and the driver so I could sit in the front seat.

“I never expected that the horses could get us over the mountain, but they did by stopping to rest every 100 yards on the way up. I’m glad the tunnel wasn’t fixed, for the experience was great. The rocks rose straight up on one side, straight down on the other, and a little jump to one side of the road would have made pressed beef of me.

“On the summit we were in three states at once—Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee, and I was in a fourth, a state of bliss. Six men behind me, one at my side, and the loveliest mountain scenery all around. As far as the eye could see rose one mountain after another. Some of them were above the clouds, and some below, but a blue haze hovered around the tops of all of them.

“The road was rocky, solid sandstone in some places but with beautiful flowers growing out of the stones and ferns that would have set one wild had there not been so many other things to take your attention first.”

Mary Hosbrook obviously had an artist’s eye for natural beauty and an appreciation of flowers that could take root in rocks. And the wagon ride proved that Mary Hosbrook took a back seat to no one. She embodied America’s spunk and spirit.

Mary Hosbrook got married in 1901 and partnered with her husband in the book business in Kansas City. He did the office work, and she called on customers, plying the muddy streets of early Kansas City in a horse-and-buggy to place libraries with the works of Spencer, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare in the stately homes of the city’s elite.

My wife and I visited Aunt Mary shortly after her 98th birthday in 1964. She said that the candles on her birthday cake were “a blaze of glory,” thrusting her hand out to illustrate the magnificence of the moment. She was magnificent—and now a millionaire herself. Mary Hosbrook Kincaid lived to age 101 and left her estate to local charities.

James F. Burns is a retired professor at the University of Florida.

Courts Hurt Fair and Accessible Voting

By Christian Hosam, Inside Sources

Guest Columnist

The Supreme Court recently handed down what many considered a harsh defeat. The ruling in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, which upheld a ruling allowing Ohio to purge voters that it deems to have changed addresses from the rolls, makes it easier for other states to enact draconian Voter ID laws that will make it harder, not easier, to vote all around the country.

The response to this devastating result is to redouble efforts to go to the courts with hopes of addressing all of the problems that we believe are not in keeping with our laws protecting against discrimination. However, this is not the solution.

Over the last 40 years, the courts have consistently made it harder for those interested in finding ways to make voting more fair and accessible. A more promising and fruitful option is to elevate the local, grassroots activism that has sprung up in response to much of the worst instances of voter suppression that have taken place.

For example, in 2016, the presidential election was decided by just 22,748 votes. According to a voter study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, restrictive voter ID laws passed by the Republican state legislature kept up to 23,000 voters from the polls in that very election, in two heavily Democratic counties no less. This is especially important given that the Supreme Court ruled back in 2008 that it is not an undue burden to require citizens to have to show identification in order to vote, essentially facilitating those same laws in Wisconsin.

In spite of the valiant legal efforts by organizations like the ACLU (that continue even now), it is clear that the legal landscape provides less than we should hope for in terms of a path forward in terms of ending inequitable voting practices. And yet, the struggle continues in other ways.

As a result of those same voter ID laws in Wisconsin, the organization VoteRiders was founded to support voters in circumventing the processes that make it so difficult to vote in the state. They find ways to help citizens figure out the proper identification, conduct get-out-the-vote drives, and conduct clinics to help voters navigate the process of voting in Wisconsin. This has the effect of not just supporting voters who were disenfranchised but also engendering new support and participation by voters who may not have been affected otherwise. This is critical because the rationale behind many voter ID laws is to suppress voters who are otherwise disengaged from the political process.

In New York City, the congressional primary in the 14th District also shows how the regulations that shape how voters participate are deeply tied to who they support. The Democratic primary pits Joe Crowley, the incumbent and fourth highest ranking member in the House, against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-woman of Puerto Rican descent who, if elected, would be the district’s first Latina congresswoman.

Crowley is heavily favored to win because of his incumbency status, but also because the rules governing voting in New York primaries dictate that voters have to have been registered Democrats for months and months in order to even be able to vote. Undeterred, Ocasio-Cortez has been doing her best to register eligible but untapped voters in order to swing the election in her favor, understanding that the map as it stands is slanted against her.

The rules as written are not supportive to the development of an equitable, accountable voting system, but attempts to change them have been met with more harm than help. Focusing on the streets and the development of a bigger and more diverse electorate that demand more of their representatives is, counterintuitively, the best way forward in terms of developing fairer, more accessible voting.

Christian Hosam is a Millennial Public Policy Fellow in New America’s Political Reform program.

Special Election Update: County Boards of Elections May Begin Official Canvass Tomorrow

Friday, August 17, 2018

COLUMBUS – Starting tomorrow, August 18, county boards of elections may begin the official canvass for the special election held on August 7. Boards must have the official canvass completed by August 24.

What is the official canvass?

The official canvass is the tabulation of all eligible ballots cast that includes absentee, Election Day and provisional ballots. During the official canvass ALL eligible provisional and absentee ballots cast are counted.

How many ballots have yet to be counted?

As of Election Day, the unofficial results showed that there were 5,084 outstanding absentee ballots and 3,435 provisional ballots. History shows that 10-20 percent of outstanding absentees and 80-90 percent of provisionals cast will be eligible to be counted under Ohio law.

Under Secretary Husted, on average, 99 percent of absentee ballots cast have been counted and 90 percent of provisional ballots cast have been counted. This is up compared to the previous administration, when on average 97 percent of absentee ballots cast were counted and 85 percent of provisional ballots cast were counted.

What is a provisional ballot?

Ballots cast by voters whose identity and/or eligibility could not be verified. These are not included as part of the unofficial canvass on election night as Ohio law prohibits boards of elections from counting any of these ballots until the official canvass, which can begin on the 11th day following Election Day. Provisional voters who did not provide a form of identification on Election Day had until August 14, seven days after Election Day, to return to the board of elections to provide an acceptable form of identification so that their provisional ballot could be considered for counting.

What is an absentee ballot?

Ballots cast prior to Election Day outside of Election Day polling locations, which includes absentees cast by mail, in-person prior to Election Day, and military and overseas ballots cast either by mail or in-person prior to Election Day. Those received by Election Day are tabulated as part of the unofficial canvass on election night. Those received after Election Day are referred to as outstanding absentee ballots, which includes ballots sent to voters but not yet returned and ballots returned with incomplete identification envelopes that the voter may correct in the seven days following the election. If postmarked by August 6 and received by August 17, these ballots are eligible to be considered for counting as part of the official canvass.

Who certifies the final results?

Each county board of elections will certify the official results for their county. Once that has been done, counties that are part of the 12th Congressional District will send their official results to the district’s most populous county’s board of elections, which is Franklin County, who will then certify the official results.

When will we know if a recount is required?

Once all ballots have been counted and the official results have been certified, if the margin of victory is equal to or less than one-half of one percent (.05 percent), an automatic recount will be triggered under Ohio law. In a multi-county district race, like the 12th Congressional District, the law requires the Secretary of State to order the recount.

3 Columns by Sen. Sherrod Brown

Saving the Pensions Ohioans Earned

Recently, thousands of workers and retirees came to Columbus to demand Congress solve the crisis threatening the secure retirement these Americans earned. I serve as co-chair of the bipartisan select committee created to solve the pensions crisis, and Senator Portman and I worked to bring members of the committee to Columbus to hear from Ohioans who have the most to lose if Congress fails to act.

They represent more than a million Americans around the country, who are at risk of losing the pensions they’ve earned over a lifetime of work. More than 60,000 Ohio retirees alone are at risk of pension cuts.

The massive Central States Teamsters Pension Plan, the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, the Ironworkers Local 17 Pension Plan, the Ohio Southwest Carpenters Pension Plan, and the Bakers and Confectioners Pension Plan are all currently on the brink of failure.

When Wall Street gambled and lost these pensions, Wall Street got a bailout; and when big corporations came to Washington looking for tax cuts, they got a handout.

These Americans don’t want a bailout or a handout – they’re just asking for what they earned.

We know what will happen if we don’t solve this. Retirees will face crippling cuts to their pensions checks. Hundreds of Ohio small businesses could go bankrupt. Current workers will have paid into a pension they’ll never receive. And after all that devastation, all those lives upended, taxpayers will still be on the hook for tens of billions of dollars to prop up the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation

That’s why I pressed for Congress to create this committee, to force members to come together and come up with a bipartisan solution by the end of the year to solve this crisis.

I’ve put out a proposal – the Butch Lewis Act – and I think it’s a good place to start. But everyone knows we can’t get anything done unless we work together.

Too much is at stake to retreat into partisan corners. That’s what the people who are counting on us deserve – the people in that hearing, and the millions of retirees and workers and thousands of small businesses they represent.

That’s why I am open to any solution that protects workers, retirees, and businesses. And I want to hear any idea that brings us closer to a bipartisan compromise.

Preventing Cancer in Firefighters

In emergencies, while the rest of us run from danger, firefighters run toward it. And when they rush into the flames they’re not just putting their lives on the line – even firefighters who come home safely face long-term health risks.

A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study confirms that firefighters face an increased risk of cancer because of exposure on the job.

That’s why I worked with my colleagues on the bipartisan Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, which President Trump signed into law last month.

Our bill requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and maintain a voluntary registry to collect data on cancer among firefighters. We’ll use that data, along with existing state data, to better assess the ways our first responders are at risk, so we can work to prevent more cancer diagnoses.

We’re also requiring the CDC to develop a strategy to maximize participation in the registry, so we can get accurate, useful data. All the data in the registry will be made public, so other experts can use it in their own research.

The other week, I talked with Mike Taylor, President of the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters. Mike, like many other Ohio firefighters, has seen too many of his brothers and sisters fall victim to the scourge of cancer.

We need to learn why firefighters are at such high risk, and get researchers the data they need to find answers and solutions.

National firefighter organizations, including the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the International Association of Fire Fighters, among others, pushed for this legislation.

We know this is just a first step and there’s a lot more work to do to protect our first responders. But this bill will help us make progress.

If you only watch cable news, you wouldn’t think anything bipartisan is getting done in Washington. But this legislation is another example of how there are plenty of issues where we put partisanship aside, and come together to do what’s right for the people who serve this country.

Securing Military and Civilian Jobs that Fuel Our Local Economies

The final National Defense Authorization Act is expected to be signed into law soon. As a member of the bipartisan House and Senate Committee that wrote the final bill, I am proud of the critical investments we delivered for Ohio.

We were able to secure a final bill that not only includes Ohio’s defense priorities, but also protects military and civilian jobs that fuel our local economies.

In Dayton, we are getting the largest military construction investment ever for Wright-Patterson’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). And we secured a provision in the Senate bill to block the Department of Defense from moving forward with plans to transfer important Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) responsibilities away from Wright-Patt.

We were also able to fight back against a House provision that called on the Pentagon to slash civilian defense jobs at facilities like the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency in Columbus and Cleveland.

And it doesn’t end there.

We secured investments to the stryker and Abrahams Tank at Lima’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, where they’ll be able to expand production. And in the Mahoning Valley, we’re investing funds to construct a new gun range at Camp Ravenna and make gate upgrades at Youngstown Air Reserve Station (YARS).

In Mansfield, the women and men of 179th Airlift Wing carry out missions that are critical to our national security and Mansfield’s economy. That’s why we are delivering funds to replace the fire station at Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base. And we secured funds to construct a small arms range at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, so that the 121st Air Refueling Wing has access to the training resources it needs to carry out its missions.

Not only were we able to include Ohio’s defense priorities in the final bill, but we were able to improve the process for connecting servicemembers with education, training, and job opportunities when they leave the service.

Our men and women in uniform have already answered the call to serve. My provision that I introduced with my Republican colleague, Senator Rounds, will help veterans get the support they need to make the transition to civilian life.

At a time when there’s not nearly enough bipartisan cooperation in Washington, Democrats and Republicans came together to protect defense jobs and protect our national security.

I urge Congress to act quickly to pass the final version of this bill, so that we can get it to the President’s desk and signed into law.

By Nathaniel Swigger

Associate Professor of Political Science, The Ohio State University

Nathaniel Swigger does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. The Ohio State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US, where this article was originally published.

Nathaniel Swigger does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. The Ohio State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US, where this article was originally published.