EveryDistrict State Spotlight: Ohio


EveryDistrict is investing in Ohio because it’s a key swing state where Republicans have long controlled the levers of power. Even though Barack Obama won the state twice, Republicans have controlled the Ohio State Senate since 1992, and they currently have a 23 to 9 majority. Republicans have controlled the State House for all but five years since 1992, and they currently have a 66 to 33 majority. These large majorities have given Republicans substantial power to push an ultra-conservative agenda in a purple state.

We can change that this year.

To take back the State Senate, Democrats need to win back eight seats, and EveryDistrict’s data analysis has identified eight winnable seats (EveryDistrict’s LDI score is in parentheses next to the district number): District 2 (-6), District 3 (11), District 5 (1), District 13 (3), District 16 (2), District 19 (-5), District 24 (-1), and District 29 (-7). This year, half of the State Senate – the even-numbered districts – are on the ballot. EveryDistrict has endorsed four candidates running in purple districts that Democrats must win to take control of the State Senate.

To take back the State House, Democrats need to win back 17 seats, and EveryDistrict’s data analysis has identified 16 winnable seats: District 3 (-2), District 6 (-1), District 7 (-6), District 16 (3), District 19 (3), District 21 (6), District 23 (-4), District 24 (4), District 28 (0), District 36 (-2), District 37 (-1), District 43 (-1), District 55 (3), District 79 (-7), District 89 (-2), and District 94 (-2). State representatives serve two-year terms, so all State House seats are on the ballot in 2018 and 2020. EveryDistrict has endorsed nine candidates in districts that Democrats must win to start building back power in the State House.

The Candidates

EveryDistrict has endorsed a diverse group of candidates running for the state legislature in Ohio.

While some of them are political newcomers, others have been involved in politics for a while, like Paul Bradley and Phil Robinson, who both worked for U.S. Senators. Lauren Friedman, Casey Weinstein, and Joe Helle are U.S. military veterans. Louise Valentine has spent her career working in senior leadership positions at a Fortune 500 company, and Sharon Sweda and Jessica Miranda are successful small business owners. Mary Lightbody and Russ Harris have spent their careers working with students, while Beth Liston and Allison Russo are healthcare professionals. Dan Foley and Taylor Sappington are both local elected officials.

What’s At Stake

Democratic majorities in Ohio would implement progressive policies to combat years of extreme, conservative proposals that have undermined health care access, women’s rights, gun safety, voting rights, and public education, in particular.

Public Education

Republican legislators in Ohio have not only massively underfunded public education at the expense of voucher programs and charter schools, they’ve also become embroiled in one of the worst corruption scandals in the state’s history as a result.

The online Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), was Ohio’s largest charter school until it closed in January. Republicans couldn’t find enough good things to say about ECOT; perhaps because ECOT had donated more than $2 million to Ohio politicians over the years, primarily to Republicans. About 12,000 students were attending ECOT when it closed, unable to repay about $80 million it owed the state for over inflating its enrollment numbers.

In May, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost (now running for Attorney General) released a report alleging ECOT leaders broke the law by intentionally inflating the amount of time students spent learning. Republicans could have avoided the whole debacle, but the Legislative Office of Education Oversight, who raised concerns about charter school oversight, was eliminated in 2005 by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Of the $10.4 billion in state taxpayer money spent on education between mid-2016 and mid-2017, almost $1 million (about 9%) was spent on charter schools. The latest Republican voucher proposal could see an additional $35 to $100 million spent on vouchers to private schools at the expense of Ohio’s public schools. Democrats have roundly criticized the proposal for its cuts to public education, and EveryDistrict’s candidates are committed to cleaning up the corruption in Columbus and restoring funding for public education that has been drained under years of Republican governance.

Health Care

In 2013, Governor John Kasich (R) implemented Medicaid expansion over the objection of the GOP legislature, and Republicans in the state house have been trying to undo his decision ever since. For example, in 2017 Republican legislators passed a state budget that included a provision to freeze Medicaid expansion. Governor Kasich vetoed the legislation; his office stated that half a million people would lose their health care coverage if the measure passed.

Republican legislators in Ohio have been very busy in recent years crafting new ways to restrict access to women’s health care. In 2017, lawmakers banned abortions after 20 weeks, and in 2016, Governor Kasich vetoed the “heartbeat bill” that would have banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks. These are just a few of the bills legislators have introduced in recent years aimed at restricting Ohioans’ access to health care and reproductive choice.

Gun Safety

Instead of implementing gun safety measures in the wake of mass shootings around the country, Ohio Republicans have loosened gun laws, even allowing those with a concealed carry license to bring their gun into a daycare.

Ohio does not require a background check before a private firearm sale, does not require firearms dealers to obtain a state license, and does not allow local governments to regulate firearms, to name some of the ways in which legislators could improve gun safety measures. Democratic lawmakers have introduced proposals to ban assault weapons, but Republicans have refused to consider the legislation.

Voting Rights

Ohio Republicans have continued to find ways to make it harder for voters to vote. In 2005, Ohio passed one of the most stringent voter ID laws at the time. In 2011, Republicans tightened ID requirements and shortened early voting, and in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the shortened early voting period. The U.S. Supreme Court also upheld Ohio’s system of purging voters from the rolls if they don’t vote in an election for two years, making it harder for people like servicemembers to exercise their right to vote. Between 2011 and 2016, Ohio purged more than two million voters from the rolls, more than any other state.

The Incumbents

In the State Senate, EveryDistrict’s four endorsed candidates are running against members of the Ohio State House looking for a promotion. In 2012, President Obama won in three of these districts (Senate Districts 5, 13, and 29) and narrowly lost in Senate District 19, but the voting records on the Republican side would lead you to believe these districts were in much more conservative territory.

All four voted to freeze Medicaid expansion; Nathan Manning (formerly House District 55 and running for the State Senate in District 13) was a co-sponsor of the legislation and Kirk Schuring (formerly House District 48 and running for the State Senate in District 29) sponsored the specific provision to freeze Medicaid expansion. All have voted to restrict women’s access to health care, and Stephen Huffman (formerly House District 80 and running for the State Senate in District 5) and Andrew Brenner (formerly House District 87 and running for the State Senate in District 19) have co-sponsored multiple pieces of legislation to make it harder for women in Ohio to access reproductive care. All four have voted to loosen gun laws, undo environmental protections, and restrict access to voting; Schuring and Brenner have sponsored bills related to all three of those topics.

In the State House, several of EveryDistrict’s candidates are running against incumbents: Jay Edwards (HD 94), Laura Lanese (HD 23), Jonathan Dever (HD 28), and Steve Arndt (HD 89). Again, none of these districts are deep in Republican territory; Obama won in House Districts 89 and 94 and narrowly lost in House District 23. Obama lost by a larger margin in House District 28, but Hillary Clinton win the district in 2016.

But that hasn’t stopped these House members from voting for extreme, conservative pieces of legislation just like their counterparts looking for a promotion. All four voted to freeze Medicaid expansion (Lanese was a co-sponsor). All have voted to restrict access to women’s health care, loosen gun laws, and undo environmental protections. Lanese co-sponsored several pieces of legislation that would have placed severe restrictions on women’s access to an abortion if passed into law. Dever co-sponsored a resolution urging the Trump administration to amend the Clean Air Act to eliminate burdensome requirements, which in reality urges less restrictions on companies dumping toxic chemicals into our environment.

What You Can Do

As of the last filing deadline in June, EveryDistrict’s 14 candidates were behind in the money race by over $1.8 million. That’s right – $1.8 million.

That total only includes amounts raised this cycle (since January 1, 2017). It doesn’t include any cash incumbents had left over from last cycle, and it certainly doesn’t include dark money from outside groups, who we know will be spending big to keep Ohio red.

We know that $1.8 million seems like a lot of money – and it is – but last year around this time we wrote a similar piece about Virginia. There, we estimated that the candidates running in the 18 most competitive districts needed to raise another $2 million to close the gap before Election Day. Fifteen of those candidates went on to win.

Our candidates have been working hard to close the money gap, and we know that they can win if they can raise the funds to communicate their message to voters.

This is where you come in. You can help close the gap by making a donation today directly to our Ohio candidates. Whatever you can give – $5, $25, $100, or $500 – will make a huge difference in making sure our candidates have the resources they need to fund their campaigns through Election Day.

We know they can win with your support.

Want to learn more? Visit our website, EveryDistrict.us, where you can learn more about our plans for 2018 and sign up for our email list. Questions? Send us a note at info@everydistrict.us.