By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
We need election systems that are free from fraud, discrimination, and partisan influence and that are more, not less, accessible to the citizens of this country.
– Eric Holder
The repeated failure of the Republican-leaning Ohio Redistricting Commission to create new legislative maps that are fairer than the current GOP gerrymandered super-majority districts has created election chaos.
Twice, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that previous legislative maps were illegally gerrymandered to favor Republicans in violation of a constitutional amendment approved by Ohio voters.
To stave off the Court’s contempt proceedings, the Commission has presented new maps that purport to create a 54-45 Republican majority in the Ohio House and an 18-15 Senate advantage. Perhaps the Commission has forestalled contempt. Still, the Supreme Court won the previous rounds.
However, there’s a more significant issue. Many of the so-called “Democratic” seats are Democratic by extremely slight margins. Suppose the Supreme Court approves the latest maps. In that case, the biggest question is how effective the Democratic Party will be at winning those barely blue seats. The Republicans, with their vast financial advantage, are almost sure to retain a large majority in both houses. Moreover, the Democratic Party failed to rally its vote against Trump and his loyalists, and the base may be even more discouraged or indifferent in 2022.
Ultimately, none of the latest proposed changes to the map matter much on a national basis until the Democrats can make Ohio a swing state again. Unfortunately, the Republicans are 100 percent unified. At the same time, the Democrats are split between the old-liners and the Bernie Sanders-type candidates.
More notably, the longer the Commission takes to deliver fair maps that meet the scrutiny of the Ohio Supreme Court, the more uncertainty is created over the fate of the May 3rd primary election. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sounded the alarm last week in a statement to the USA Today Network Ohio Bureau. “I can foresee almost no circumstance where it is possible to conduct the district races on May 3rd,” he said.
The lack of a firm date for the primary unleashes pandemonium in our local elections. The May primary will be the first-ever election at the new voting center located at 3737 W. Sylvania. The lack of clarity drastically affects early voting and the ability to send and receive military and overseas ballots on time.
Nevertheless, despite an obviously broken political system, here are my early thoughts on a few local races after peering into the chaos of this electoral uncertainty:
Ohio 9th Congressional District:
An extremely compelling race and bellwether should it end up as Marcy Kaptur vs. Theresa Gavarone (R) in the general election. Overall, history shows that the president’s party is almost always foredoomed with midterm losses in congressional elections. Republicans are favored to win full control of Congress regardless of Biden’s successful policy efforts. So, a vote for the Republican candidate in this race is for full-speed-ahead Trump policies.
The question is, are Republican and centrist or independent voters willing to buck their instincts to punish the incumbent party in a mid-term given the Trump implications? Conversely, are marginal voters of the Democratic party sufficiently energized to turn out AGAIN to battle Trump?
Lucas County Commissioners:
State Representative and former Toledo Public Schools Board member Lisa Sobecki challenged incumbent Gary Byers in an unexpected move. A recent poll among likely Democratic primary voters in Lucas County has Sobecki with a commanding lead over Byers and Michael Hood. Sobecki also has an overwhelming advantage in labor support, name recognition and campaign funds. Look for Sobecki’s massive presence on television and other media while her competition settles primarily for public appearances only. The good news for Byers is that 51 percent of probable voters are still undecided in this race.
Vallie Bowman English is a candidate for Lucas County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division and will challenge Linda Knepp. Although Knepp’s husband is a federal judge, English has superior name recognition, political infrastructure, and understands how to campaign against an unknown name.
Governor Mike DeWine appointed Eric Allen Marks to replace Judge Myron Duhart on Common Pleas when Duhart ascended to the Court of Appeals. Marks is a former public defender, believes in criminal justice reform, and is generally well-liked in the community and respected in the Bar Association. The Democrats didn’t put up a candidate to challenge Marks in the general election, so he gets to walk in.
Lori Olender (D) defeated an incumbent Republican for the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas General Division. Olender has the name recognition and organization behind her to maintain the seat.
Note to voters: The Republicans have changed the rules in judicial elections. Party affiliation appears on the ballot for Ohio Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals races but doesn’t appear on the ballot for Common Pleas or Trial Court races. This is because the GOP thinks it advantages their candidates when there’s an ‘R’ next to their candidates running for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals but doesn’t help them with trial judges. The intentional inconsistency is a precise instance of self-interest.
The Ohio Statehouse:
An African-American conservative, Joshua Williams, looks to challenge Erika White or Colin Flanagan for Ohio’s 40th District. Williams, a young Black male who rose from a homeless high school dropout to an attorney, has an appealing story. Should he secure significant funding and political support from Columbus, he could be a formidable candidate in this district.
Community activist and former TPS Board candidate Elgin Rogers is off to a fast start in the 41st District, where Daniel Ortiz has also filed. Look for Rogers to prevail in this safely Democratic district.
In the 42nd District, Toledo City Councilmen Michele Grim and Nick Komives have filed to run after just being elected to council in November. Indeed, they’re not the first politicians to win a seat and jump to another, and they won’t be the last to do it. While Komives has demonstrated staying power, having served for the previous eight years, Grim will have some explaining to do. I anticipate hearing how each candidate will message voter criticism during their primary faceoff.
Will the Chaos Continue?
A May 3 primary is in jeopardy but still possible for statewide and county offices where the electoral boundaries are not debated. There has been talk of having bifurcated primaries, but that would rule out a second primary until July. However, the cost to run a May primary, close it out, perform the necessary certifications, and then turn around and run a second one could exceed $25 million statewide. The Ohio legislature is not likely to want to spend the funds.
What is certain is we need an election that reflects the political realities of our state, is accessible to the citizens and is “free from fraud, discrimination, and partisan influence.” Anything less reflects the continuing chaos of our broken political system.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org