Last year was poised to be a great year for Ohio Democrats. In addition to the “Blue Wave” that would wash over the country, Ohio Republicans had been caught asleep at the wheel as the ECOT scandal allowed millionaires to get richer at the expense of Ohio students. At the same time, the unchecked opioid epidemic increased overdose deaths to the second highest in the country per capita. It appeared 2018 was going to be similar to the last “Blue Wave” midterm in 2006 when President Bush slumped in the polls and the Ohio GOP was caught up in the CoinGate scandal.
Come Election Day, Ohio Democrats were again left disappointed. Of the five state offices up for election, every single Democrat lost, with the Governor and Attorney General candidates losing by larger margins than during the 2010 Republican wave election. The Democrats were also unable to flip any of the 12 Republican held Ohio U.S. House seats, and the GOP held onto supermajorities in both the State Senate and House. While Sen. Sherrod Brown was re-elected and the two Ohio Supreme Court Justices endorsed by the Democratic Party won, these victories could be taken with a grain of salt. According to the Secretary of State website, Sen. Brown’s margin of victory increased by only .8 percent compared to his 2012 margin while facing a weaker, poorer financed opponent, and the two Supreme Court Justices, running without a “D” next to their names, are sitting in a 5-2 minority on the bench.
The Ohio Democratic Party has a big problem: Democrats not named Sherrod Brown cannot win. In fact, the only two people to win statewide running as a Democrat since 2006 are Sen. Brown and President Obama. This has led many groups to consider whether Ohio is still a swing state and worth contesting. One notable group is Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC and large contributor to President Obama’s 2012 re-election bid and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential bid, who announced last month Ohio is not one of their target states for the 2020 Presidential election.
The problem does not seem to lie in the candidates that party members are nominating. This past cycle, our general election candidates that lost included two former congresspersons, a former head of a federal agency, a former U.S. prosecutor, numerous veterans and other smaller office holders. The problem seems to lie in the inept functioning of the Ohio Democratic Party itself. The party launched a statewide bus tour designed to improve Democratic competitiveness in more rural areas but yielded little results. Poor management of money and resources included paying for cell phones that were not in use and fighting between the party and various campaigns over spending. The party also hired union-busting Republican lawyers to head their negotiating team while trying to work out a contract with the recently unionized campaign workers.
These self-inflicted wounds are simply inexcusable in politics. We have many Democrats across the state who give so much to the campaigns they are involved with just to see a statewide party handicap their work. Ohio Democrats are at a crossroads. With some Democratic strategists considering jettisoning Ohio in favor of greener pastures in Georgia, Iowa, and Texas, 2020 might be the last chance to prove that Ohio is still a swing state. We cannot afford the same incompetent leadership we have seen in the past decade. Ohioans need a bold Democratic leader who can ensure we organize, fundraise and compete in every part of the state, not just in Toledo, Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland. If the Ohio Democratic Party doesn’t change course soon, we risk becoming more like Kentucky and Indiana instead of Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Bailey Williams is a junior studying economics at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What do you think? Let Bayley know by tweeting him @BWill_Ohio.