COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio’s primary elections have finally entered the rearview mirror, gearing candidates and voters up for the finish line: November’s general election.
With less than 8% of Ohio voters casting a ballot, the state’s $25 million second primary election marks the lowest voter turnout the Buckeye State has seen since at least 1978, according to records from Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office.
“We had to think this would be a low turnout election,” said Matt Dole, a Republican strategist at the Ohio-based consulting firm Communications Counsel.
Now that Tuesday’s primary is over – and the confusion surrounding redistricting that split Ohio’s primary elections into two – Dole said he anticipates turnout to be around 50 to 55% in November.
Upsets in the Ohio Statehouse
Incumbent candidates running in contested central Ohio House races saw a mixed bag of results Tuesday, securing their party’s nomination in three of the five races that were up for grabs.
“Incumbents have the better show when turnout is low because they have greater name recognition,” Dole said.
Two Republican incumbents in central Ohio districts, Rep. Shawn Stevens and Rep. Mark Frazier, were wedged out of their Statehouse seats by more than 1,000 votes each.
Delaware Republicans ousted Stevens, appointed to replace Rep. Rick Carfagna in May, for pro-Trump political newcomer Beth Lear with more than 58% of the vote.
In the Newark area, first-time politician and civil engineer Thad Claggett defeated one-term Rep. Mark Fraizer with 58% of the vote to secure the Republican nomination for District 68.
Regardless of the outcomes in November, Republicans are poised to keep their supermajority advantages in both houses, able to pass legislation without Democratic support and override any governor’s veto.
Governor and statewide races
Incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine – who, as of November 2021, was the country’s ninth-most popular governor – has an overwhelming lead in the polls to secure reelection in Ohio’s gubernatorial race.
U.S. polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight pegged DeWine, who has been relatively quiet on the campaign trail, with a 98 in 100 chance of winning the seat against Democratic opponent Nan Whaley.
In May, DeWine gained 48% of the vote to defeat two challengers who had positioned themselves further to the right than DeWine. The latest poll from Suffolk University, in late May – conducted before the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade – positioned DeWine to win by 15 points.
Since Ohio implemented its six-week abortion ban, Whaley has made abortion a regular talking point on the campaign trail and hopes that DeWine’s anti-abortion record will distance him from voters.
“How Roe has been governed through the states makes complete sense,” Whaley told NBC4 on Tuesday. “That is why I want it in the Ohio Constitution.”
Other statewide races – attorney general, auditor, treasurer and secretary of state – are poised to favor Republicans.
A red wave is largely anticipated for U.S. congressional races, given historical GOP dominance in Ohio and the use of Republican-slanted maps that will be in effect even after the Ohio Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional.
In a 4-3 decision in mid-July, the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the map outlining Ohio’s 15 districts – used by voters in May’s primary – as it “unduly favors” Republicans and violates the state constitution’s partisan gerrymandering prohibitions.
The map included five Democratic-leaning districts and 10 Republican-leaning districts. Three of the five blue districts “have such close margins” that the Court considered them to be “toss-up” districts.
“The Court found that the new map ‘packed’ Democrats into three congressional districts that heavily favor a Democratic candidate,” a news release from the Court said. “By doing so, the map dilutes the strength of Democratic voters outside of those districts, leading to 12 districts that heavily favor Republicans.”
Although statewide and U.S. House races are largely believed to favor Republicans, the matchup in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race is not as clearcut.
Some polling and campaign finance figures indicate a path to victory for Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, but others remain steadfast in the ability of the Trump-endorsed venture capitalist J.D. Vance to secure the seat being vacated by the retiring Rob Portman.
“I think it’s going to be a very competitive race,” said Paul Beck, professor emeritus of political science at Ohio State University. “And Ryan is the kind of candidate who could win that race.”
Ryan, a 10-term U.S. representative, first for Ohio’s 17th House District and later for Ohio’s 13th, belongs to a party that’s presided over record levels of inflation – an issue that 70% of Americans listed as the top problem facing the U.S. in a Pew Research Center survey conducted from late April to early May.
“(When) the average voter on the streets sees Tim Ryan, they see the Democrats,” attorney and Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis said. “And then what do they do? Historically, they go and vote for the other party because of the situation we find ourselves in.”
Desiree Tims, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Innovation Ohio, said Vance’s “extremism” and allyship with Trump could hurt him in November.
“I don’t think the vast majority of Ohioans are far-right and extreme and want to see the Capitol walls torn down, police officers killed,” she said. “And what we saw was absolutely horrific and embarrassing on the international stage. It was an embarrassment, and that’s not what our country stands for.”