Friday, May 25, 2018
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Ohio voting: Mixed bag

Ohioans voted with foresight and folly Tuesday, resulting in a grab bag of results sure to confound pundits looking for a consistent message or an unpredictable — or even predictable — trend.

Locally, Sylvania and Spencer townships sensibly voted for regional public transportation by rejecting shortsighted referendums to withdraw from the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority. Meanwhile, Perrysburg, which decided in March to leave TARTA, voted to kick elderly, poor, and disabled bus riders to the curb by not funding a replacement bus service.

Voters outside the City of Toledo generously approved non-school levies. Perrysburg Township approved money for fire and emergency medical services, Grand Rapids Township voters decided to fund a new fire station. And voters in Oregon amended their charter to increase city council terms from two years to four and stagger elections to improve continuity and institutional memory. Several local school levies also won voter support, including ones in the Perrysburg, Anthony Wayne, and Ottawa Hills districts.

But not for Toledo Public Schools, whose 4.9-mill, 10-year funding request was rejected. Toledo voters likely were put off by the size and duration of the levy. The effort also was hurt by revelations about attendance scrubbing, as well as the district’s dropping grade on the state’s annual report card. TPS fell from “continuous improvement” to “academic watch,” the equivalent of a D grade.

Toledo and Lucas County voters continued to support long-standing commitments and necessary services, as levies for the library system, Children Services, Mental Health, and the Metroparks all were approved. But they were reluctant to open their purses for other requests, rejecting a renewal levy for Imagination Station.

Lack of public awareness may have doomed a new levy dedicated to Toledo Parks and Recreation. The levy was defeated by more than 8,000 votes, but some 80,000 voters failed to vote on the issue at all.

There were few surprises in the races for elected office at any level. Democrats swept Lucas County offices, including recorder, where at least no one will notice when term-limited Toledo City Councilman Phil Copeland is out of town on union business.

In races for the Ohio House and Senate, local voter preferences and redistricting favored incumbents and veteran politicians with name recognition. The same was true in northwest Ohio races for the U.S. House. Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Republican Reps. Bob Latta and Jim Jordan all coasted to easy victories.

Sen. Sherrod Brown survived a barrage of negative advertising funded by “dark money.” His challenger, Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel, now should focus on developing a resume rather than a reputation for dirty campaigns.

Ohio voters also weren’t interested in constitutional conventions or nonpartisan redistricting panels. But the oddest result of the day had to be in two races for the Ohio Supreme Court.

Ohioans rejected two sitting Ohio Supreme Court justices — one Democrat and one Republican — for the first time in recent memory. Republican Justice Robert Cupp was upset by retired judge William O’Neill, a Democrat, whose campaign got a boost from an Ohio Republican Party TV ad that accused him — falsely — of being soft on rapists.

Voters also may have been attracted by Mr. O’Neill’s stand against fund-raising by judges. Mr. O’Neill’s self-financed campaign may be the least expensive successful run for office by a nonincumbent in decades.

The same voters ousted Democratic Justice Yvette McGee Brown, the first African-American woman to serve on the state high court. Instead, they chose Republican Sharon Kennedy, who said the current GOP-dominated high court isn’t conservative enough. She was the only Ohio Supreme Court candidate to be rated “not recommended’ by the Ohio State Bar Association.

It was a fitting result in an election where almost anything could happen.

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