Ohio’s unprecedented second primary race included state legislative races for the Ohio House of Representatives, Ohio Senate, State Central Committees, and a handful of local issues in select communities. Following dismal August 2 turnout, House and Senate caucuses are now shifting gears toward the November 8 general election.
Under the two-year legislative maps imposed by a federal court, Republicans will seek to bolster supermajorities in both chambers while Democrats fight to retain ground in maps the majority of the Ohio Supreme Court labeled an unconstitutional pro-GOP gerrymander.
In the House, Democrats' priority is to protect or seize 19 competitive Democratic-leaning toss-up districts favoring the party by between 50.05-51.93% based on recent election results. Republicans, meanwhile, look to expand beyond their current 64-35 supermajority, with eight to10 pickups thought to be within reach.
Within that competitive range are five Democratic incumbents at risk, including three members of the caucus' leadership team – Rep. Jessica Miranda, Rep. Richard Brown, and Rep. Thomas West. Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Westlake) is also potentially vulnerable in the 16th District, which only favors Democrats 52.89%.
House Democrats have 20 incumbents on the ballot, seven of which face no Republican challenger. Should all those candidates win – no guarantee since five have been drawn into toss-up districts and several others are also being targeted by Republicans – the party would need to elect 15 new members to maintain its status quo of 35 seats.
To reach their 45-seat ceiling under the current map, Democrats must unseat nine Republicans in slightly Democratic-leaning districts: Rep. Al Cutrona, Rep. Gayle Manning, Rep. Derek Merrin, Rep. Tom Patton, Rep. Gail Pavliga, Rep. Phil Plummer, Rep. Bill Roemer, Rep. Andrea White, and Rep. Bob Young.
In the upper chamber, the Senate GOP has capitalized on the 2011 map to achieve a record 25-8 supermajority and is mounting an aggressive effort to gain ground under the current two-year districts.
Central to that plan is toppling Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) in the 3rd District which leans 52.05% toward Democrats. Sen. Maharath faces Republican Michele Reynolds, CEO and founder of nonprofit development organization NISRE Inc.
But Democrats aren't alone in playing defense, as two Republican incumbents have districts that now favor Democrats, albeit slightly.
Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) appears to be the most vulnerable in her 27th District, which now leans 51.06% Democratic. Patricia Goetz, a child and adult psychiatrist, is the Democrats' hope, with a campaign that is emphasizing her medical background.
Sen. Nathan Manning (R-N. Ridgeville) faces a more favorable district in the 13th although not by much (50.03%). The Democratic nominee is Anthony Eliopoulos, a national guardsman and former military liaison to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Cleveland).
House: Much of the attention will remain trained on the 19 competitive districts favoring Democrats by thin margins. Of those, all but two are contested after Republicans failed to field candidates in the 15th and 59th districts.
Those competitive races in order of most competitive to least are:
District 23: Rep. Daniel Troy (D-Willowick) seeks to defend the most competitive district on the map (50.05% D) against Republican George Phillips.
72: Rep. Pavliga (R-Atwater) competes with former Democratic lawmaker Kathleen Clyde (50.08% D).
36: Rep. White (R-Kettering) seeks a second term against Democratic attorney Addison Caruso (50.23% D).
31: Rep. Roemer (R-Richfield) draws a challenge from former Macedonia City Councilor Rita Darrow (50.39% D).
17: Longtime lawmaker Rep. Patton (R-Strongsville) faces potentially his most competitive challenge yet from Democrat Troy Greenfield (50.76% D).
58: Rep. Cutrona (R-Canfield) angles for a second term against Democratic Canfield City Councilor Bruce Neff (51.03% D).
52: Veteran legislator Rep. Manning (R-N. Ridgeville) and municipal worker Regan Phillips go head-to-head (51.03% D).
10: Democrat Russell Harris, a former economics professor and education consultant, against Republican David Dobos, a small business owner and former Columbus City School board member (51.12% D).
32: Rep. Bob Young (R-Green) seeks reelection against Democrat Matt Shaughnessy, an attorney and former firefighter and city councilor. (51.14% D).
41: Retired mental health professional Nancy Larson, a Democrat, competes with Adrian College adjunct professor Josh Williams, a Republican (51.2% D).
42: Rep. Merrin (R-Monclova Twp.) is one of two speaker candidates for next session facing a serious challenge – in this case from local Democratic union leader Erika White (51.2% D).
27: Last minute primary ballot addition Jenn Giroux, who during the primary said she had no intention of courting Democratic voters, faces Democrat Rachel Baker whose campaign is targeting disaffected Republicans and independents (51.21% D).
28: Caucus Minority Whip Rep. Miranda (D-Forest Park) is one of the most endangered Democratic incumbents with a challenge by former Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel (51.29% D).
5: Rep. Richard Brown, the caucus' assistant minority whip, seeks to keep his seat over pressure from Republican healthcare worker Ronald Beach (51.35% D).
39: Rep. Plummer (R-Dayton) is among those angling to be the chamber's next speaker but must first overcome Democrat Leronda Jackson (51.48% D).
49: Rep. West (D-Canton), Democrats' assistant minority leader, faces Republican Jackson Township Trustee Jim Thomas (51.56% D).
34: A rematch between Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) and former Hudson City Councilor Beth Bingham (51.7% D).
Republicans are also targeting several other seats slightly more friendly to Democrats that they believe to be in reach.
They include the 11th District (53% D), where Democratic OB/GYN Anita Somani faces Republican Hilliard City Councilor Omar Tarazi, and the 14th District (54.28% D) matchup between Democratic Parma City Council President Sean Brennan and Republican organizer Jolene Austin.
And although the 64th District favors Democrats 55.75%, Republicans have called VAZA Consulting Senior Consultant Nick Santucci's efforts something to watch in a show down with Democrat Vincent Peterson, a former parole officer and liaison for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren).
Senate: Although the chamber's map contains seven competitive toss-up districts, just two are on the ballot this year – those of Sens. Roegner and Manning.
But the Republican caucus is targeting a handful of other seats that lie just adjacent to toss-up range that strategists believe could be potential pick-ups.
Given the political leanings of the map, Democrats are all but assured six seats that favor their party by more than 55.68%. Should they retain those seats, they would have a floor of seven seats thanks to the return of Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) who is the only mid-term Democrat.
Republicans similarly have eight seats up for election favoring the party by more than 54%. Coupled with 15 mid-term incumbents not on the ballot and that gives the party a potential floor of 23 seats – two below its current 25-seat threshold.
But one of the those "safe" Republicans districts – District 33 (54.35% D) – is being billed as one to watch by Democrats who have deployed longtime former lawmaker Bob Hagan in an effort to unseat Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem).
The Toledo-area 11th District may also be in contention, some believe, given what Republicans have labeled the "Trump effect."
In that race, Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) seeks to win a 55.68% Democratic-friendly district over Republican Tony Dia, the owner of a towing service who is spearheading an anti-crime platform after his police officer son was shot and killed on duty in 2020.