Well, looks like I’m going to get to do a piece on Ohio after all. I briefly talked about Ohio’s progressive candidates a few weeks ago since I didn’t think I’d have the time to make a piece. Then the Corona Virus happened and the election was delayed to April 28th where it will be done entirely by mail. What is of note is that this occurred because Republican Governor Mike Dewine ordered the polling places closed in defiance of the courts, showing a surprising moment of integrity compared to the three other states that held their primaries that day. I’d give the Republicans credit, but considering that two of the other three states had Republican Governors, I don’t think it would be warranted.
Unfortunately this also makes things problematic in that mailing in votes makes things harder for new voters who don’t know how to follow absentee ballots. Unfortunately I think it’s the best we can do for now because social distancing, flatten the curve, yada yada.
Ohio is the first state I’m covering in this format that does not have a Senatorial election occurring this year, nor does it have any other state wide races. While Ohio is a red state, there is some hope given that Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown won re-election in 2018, and the aforementioned Governor Dewine cut it pretty close. 2018 was basically a “nothing changed one way or the other” year for Ohio, and the question is whether or not 2020 will be the same.
I have previously established that I’m not going to be able to cover all 50 states for this series, so what I usually look at to decide which ones I should cover are the ones that have the most important races not just from a red vs blue perspective, but also from a corporate vs progressive perspective. I’ve compiled a massive list of progressive candidates running for office in 2020, but it would be dishonest for me to not clarify that most of them won’t even come close to winning their respective races.
As a result, I’ve taken to studying to candidates that are successful in order to best determine which future candidates will win their respective races. They ultimately come down to two things, money and name recognition. Of the five progressive House challengers running in Ohio, there is only one that has a serious chance, and that candidate is Morgan Harper.
Harper is attempting a primary campaign against Ohio Congressional District 3 incumbent Joyce Beatty, who has held the seat since 2013. Morgan Harper has the backing of a number of progressive organizations, some of which include Brand New Congress, the Working Families Party, the Columbus Ohio chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Sunrise Movement, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. But the most notable endorsement she has received comes from Justice Democrats, which is perhaps the Holy Grail of endorsements a progressive candidate can receive.
Justice Democrats, A PAC founded in January of 2017 by Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, and by 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign leaders Saikat Chakrabarti and Zack Exley, is most known for being the PAC that famously helped build the campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley in 2018.
Justice Democrats also endorsed close to 60 other candidates in 2018 as well, most of whom did not make it. It is because of this that I want to emphasize that being endorsed by Justice Democrats in 2020 is a significantly bigger deal then being endorsed by Justice Democrats in 2018. The PAC’s leadership likely came to the realization that the more candidates tend to mean less money per candidate, and that most people will coalesce around a few specific people.
This would explain why they only endorsed eight House challengers this time around; because they want to not only increase the efficiency of their spending, but also the strength of their endorsements. So that way when you see a piece stating that Justice Democrats has endorsed a candidate, you know that they have made it big. It also means that the candidate needs to have a pretty impressive campaign to begin with. The short version is that if Justice Democrats endorses a progressive challenger, then the incumbent is in for a touch fight.
But that’s not all that is special about Morgan Harper’s campaign. If you are to look at the other seven Justice Democrats running for House seats, you will notice that most of them are mounting primary campaigns against entrenched corporate Democrats who err on the conservative side. That was the case for both Jessica Cisneros and Marie Newman, both of whom ran against some of the most conservative Democrats in the White House.
From the nature of these races, one would think that Joyce Beatty is some corrupt corporate Democrat in the same vein as Henry Cuellar, Dan Lipinski, or Joe Crowley. While there is certainly a case to be made against Beatty given her engagement in gentrification, her aversion to legalizing cannabis, her baffling claim that she’s in favor of reforming money in politics while accepting bribes from corporate PACs, and her involvement in writing the infamous anti sex worker bill SESTA/FOSTA, she is actually one of the less shitty Democrats in congress.
While Beatty is far from the most shining example of a progressive, I’d find it hard to believe that Justice Democrats would have anything against her when you have so many worse incumbents who have held their seats for decades. This means that Justice Democrats like endorsed Morgan Harper based on the strength of her campaign alone. Given that Harper has raised over $300,000 in her campaign’s first quarter, It’s not hard to see why they are on her side.
As of February 26th, Harper has raised a total of $670,158 and currently has $157,456 left on hand. On the other hand, Beatty has raised $1,418,558 and still has $1,209,063 on hand. Predictably as fuck, 67% of her funds came from corporate PACs and less than 3% came from contributions under $200, cause even when you have more voter enthusiasm, most incumbents get flooded with funding by corporate PACs that they can use to flood the airwaves with ads, and these corporations will often demand special favors in exchange for their financial support.
Incumbents like Beatty and many others will often say “oh they may be paying me but they don’t control me, they just do it out of the kindness of their heart,” as if any of us are naive enough to think that corporations and billionaires have our best interests at heart. All the while they will pretend to care about the people all while being careful not to piss off their donors or do anything too crazy.
Normally, I would have said that Morgan Harper has this election in the bag, but the fact that Cisneros leaves me a bit hesitant to declare Harper the victor just yet. The reason for this is that this is Harper’s first attempt at a primary campaign. Given how much name recognition plays into these elections, I think Beatty still has a slight advantage here given that she has more money AND is an incumbent. Also keep in mind that Beatty is nowhere near as conservative as someone like Henry Cuellar or Dan Lipinski, and that her voting record is fairly consistent, so it may be difficult to convince normie Democrats to vote for Harper based on policy.
That being said, even if Harper loses this time, this means she’ll likely just run again in 2022 with more experience and more name recognition, and she’ll win then. The only other option I can imagine is her trying to run for Senate or Governor against Rob Portman or Mike DeWine instead, but we’ll have to wait and see about that. If you want to support Morgan Harper’s campaign, you can donate here.
5/6/2020 Update: Morgan Harper has managed 31.7% of the vote against Beatty. Thus far she had the weakest performance out of any Justice Democrat. From this, one can assume that the endorsements that Jessica Cisneros and Marie Newman received from establishment figures like AOC and Elizabeth Warren, in addition to the fact that their opponents were too conservative even for most neoliberals, likely played into their performances.
So I stated that Morgan Harper is the only one with a shot, but there are two other progressives that can also win in a best case scenario, and the first of these is Nick Rubando. Nick Rubando is currently the front runner to receive the Democratic nomination for Ohio’s 5th congressional district. Rubando has raised $84,983 as of February 26th, and is ahead of the 2nd place candidate Xavier Carrigan by $80K, so it seems safe to assume that Rubando will easily obtain the nomination.
What won’t be easy however, is defeating the Republican incumbent Bob Latta, who has held this seat since late 2007 and has over $900K in campaign funds… most of which come from corporate PACs and wine cave fundraisers. Latta also won re-election in 2018 with 62.3% of the vote and his district has a partisan index rating of R+11. This means that beating Bob Latta will not be easy and Rubando will need significantly greater support than what he currently has.
The plus side is that is that we know that flipping districts like this one is possible given that we have seen some districts with similar ratings to this one flipped in 2018. However, it needs to be noted that Kendra Horn, Joe Cunningham, and Ben McAdams each won in districts where Trump did significantly worse than Romney, hence why each of those districts ran a corporate neoliberal.
Ohio’s 5th congressional district is the exact opposite, a district where Trump did better than Romney, or perhaps it may be more apt to call it a district where Hillary did worse than Obama. Obama managed 44.1% of the vote in 2012, and Hillary only managed 34.4%. That is a 9.7% decrease in the results, yet if you were to subtract Romney’s 53.9% from Trump’s 59.3%, you’d see that Trump only won over 5.4% more of the votes than Romney. This leads me to conclude that 4.3% of those former Obama voters voted third party instead.
This means that a progressive like Rubando may actually be a good choice for this district considering that many of those third party voters may have been Bernie voters. When one also keeps in mind the fact that Trump is currently underwater in Ohio, this means that this district may be more inclined to support a Democratic candidate. However, that will likely depend on just HOW underwater Trump is by election day. Right now, Trump is still near the surface, which is about where he was during the 2018 elections. His approval rating has been frequently sinking and rising back up again, so it all depends on where he is in November. Let’s also keep in mind that I couldn’t find data tracking Trump’s approval rating in this specific district, and could only find data for the state as a whole.
For those of you thinking of commenting to tell me that Bob Latta is not Trump, congratufuckinglations on your amazing skills at observations! It doesn’t really make much of a difference though, most votes tend to mirror that of the accompanying Presidential elections anyway. So if Biden gets the nomination, he may very well end up screwing over Rubando even though Rubando is himself a progressive.
The second progressive that may have a shot in a best case scenario is either Joel Newby or Daniel Kilgore… whichever one gets the nomination. Both of them are running on roughly the same policies. I am inclined to say that Joel Newby is the better option considering that Kilgore backed Elizabeth Warren and doesn’t even live in the district he’s running for. One can gather that Kilgore is closer to the Democratic establishment, and will likely be of less help to the progressive cause. Nonetheless, both of them will be a superior choice to the Republican incumbent Steve Stivers.
Ohio’s 15th district has a somewhat similar dynamic to that of its 5th district in regards to the previous presidential elections. Clinton managed 6.8% less of the votes in this district than Obama did, while Trump only had 3.3% more votes than Romney did. This means that one could calculate that 3.5% of voters put in a ballot for a third party candidate instead.
Where things start to get different is in the fact that, if my hypothesis is correct, a higher percentage of those former Obama voters voted third party than voted for Trump, which seems likely considering that this district has a lower PVI rating than the 5th district. This hypothesis would also explain why Steve Stivers did worse in 2018 than he did in 2012 when Bob Latta didn’t.
While the 15th district seems like it is more winnable due to its closer to even partisanship, the fact that Newby has only raised $6,030 as of February 26th, and that Kilgore’s fundraising info isn’t even available, leads me to believe they will have a harder time against an incumbent that has raised close to $2,000,000 in corporate PAC money. Hopefully the nominee draws more attention after the primary ends, because otherwise they won’t have a shot.
5/6/2020 Update: Nick Rubando and Joel Newby have won their respective nominations. Whether or not they beat the incumbents is a different story.
There are two other House candidates who have pretty much no chance unless they get a major boost in funding, but I’m going to mention them just to let you know they are there and that they could use your support. The first of these is Eric Moyer who has raised $10,892 thus far and has to compete with a neoliberal candidate who has raised close to $200K. The second one is Pete Rosewicz, who is attempting to challenge incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur who has $678,579 on hand as of February 26th.
While they have no serious chance of winning, campaigns like this do contribute to the movement as a whole, and they become stronger with more experience. So it may not be impossible to see them again in a few years. Anyway, here are the donation links to each of the progressives, once again.
5/6/2020 Update: Eric Moyer and Pete Rosewicz predictably lost their primaries.
Of course, there are also a few progressives running for state legislature as well. The first of these candidates is Mayo Makinde, who is running in a crowded field as the only candidate who supports Medicare for All in the race for Ohio’s 25th congressional district Democratic nominee. Makinde is up against four other opponents for the nomination, but if he wins then the partisanship of the district pretty much ensures he’ll win the general in a landslide.
The second candidate is Nancy Larson who is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Ohio’s 47th State House District. She will be running against an incumbent Republican in an R+6 district that has been in Republican hands since 1988.
And last but not least is Kim McCarthy, who is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Ohio’s 73rd State House District. In 2018, Kim McCarthy received the Democratic nomination and managed 40.4% of the vote against incumbent Rick Perales, which was the best performance a Democratic nominee for this district has managed since 2008. This time, the incumbent Rick Perales has decided not to run for re-election, which means that the Republican nominee won’t have an incumbency advantage. Hopefully McCarthy has learned enough from her last race to win the seat this time.
On another important note, two seats of the Ohio Supreme Court are up for election, and they are both held by Republicans. The Republican judges up for re-election are Judith French and Sharon L Kennedy, and their Democratic opponents are Jennifer L. Brunner and John P. O’Donnell respectively. Both are running unopposed in their respective primaries, so it’s just a matter of voting out the Republican judges.
Considering that the Ohio Supreme Court currently consists of two Democrats and five Republicans, this could be a very big opportunity for Democrats if they manage to flip both seats. Considering that both of the Democrats on the court were elected in 2018, this very well means that we could have a Democratic Supreme Court in Ohio at the end of 2020. Unfortunately this may be difficult considering that O’Donnell acquitted an ex cop of manslaughter for gunning down two black residents, and stole people’s homes via illegal foreclosures. The Republican incumbent is not much better since she literally believes that Judges need to embrace judicial restraint in doing the right thing, which is a conservative dogwhistle to not rule in favor of civil rights if I ever heard it (the fact that she quotes Ronald Reagan doesn’t help her case). Kennedy is also a former cop, which doesn’t exactly put her in the best standing with the Black community either given the reputation that the police have.
I think that just about covers all the major stuff in the state. If things continue on the same path they did in 2018, then we could very likely see Ohio start to look a bit better. Especially given that Steve Chabot and Troy Balderson cut it pretty close in 2018 (both of them sold your internet privacy to btw). Of course, I haven’t been as optimistic about another blue wave occurring given how intent the DNC is to fuck us all over by death marching us to a Biden nomination. But I think we may still see a bunch of people show up to vote out anything Republican regardless.
Or we could just do the smart thing and vote for Bernie instead so we don’t need to worry about this shit.
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