The race for president tops a long list of contests that Ohio voters can begin deciding as early as Tuesday.
And Ohio’s vote will be watched more closely than that of most other states because the state's voters are so evenly split between Democrat and Republican.
“Ohio is ground zero,” said James Ruvolo, an Ottawa Hills political consultant and a former state Democratic chairman.
Kevin DeWine, a former Ohio Republican chairman, said there are several ways of adding up states to provide the winner with the necessary 270 electoral votes, “but with all those various combinations of maps, Ohio's 18 electoral college votes are still incredibly important.”
Democratic President Obama, Republican challenger Mitt Romney, their running mates, and their spouses have collectively campaigned at least 63 times this year in both Ohio and Florida — more than any other states, according to the Washington Post’s Campaign 2012 Web site.
But there are other races on the ballot.
Ohio’s Senate race is one that has gained much attention because of its potential to change the political balance in the U.S. Senate from Democratic to Republican control. Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown is seeking a second term and is being challenged by Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel.
The race pits two aggressive campaigners and has been played out so far in a constant exchange of television ads, on which both sides are spending millions of dollars.
A native of Mansfield who now lives in Lorain County, Mr. Brown, 59, served in the state House of Representatives from 1975 to 1982. He served two, four-year terms as Ohio secretary of state and then was elected to seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before defeating Republican incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine in 2006.
As the incumbent, Mr. Brown has cited his support of the 2009 taxpayer-funded rescue of General Motors and Chrysler that many believed saved a million jobs in the auto industry and helped avert an economic depression. Mr. Mandel has avoided taking a position on whether the bailout was good policy.
Mr. Brown’s campaign has relentlessly attacked Mr. Mandel over his hiring of so-called “cronies” for his staff in the treasurer’s office and of failing to attend the first 14 monthly meetings of the Ohio Board of Deposit, of which Mr. Mandel is chairman.
The Brown campaign also has accused Mr. Mandel of filling Ohio’s television airwaves with misleading and false claims, paid for by secretly funded third-party groups. Mr. Brown is an avid supporter of a proposed federal Constitutional that would overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allows organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns without revealing the sources of their funding.
Mr. Mandel, 35, grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst and lives in nearby Beachwood. A former two-term state representative and member of the Lyndhurst City Council, Mr. Mandel served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine Corps reservist.
Mr. Mandel has positioned himself as someone who would go to Washington as an outsider and has boasted of the bond ratings for the investment fund he manages on behalf of the state.
Mr. Mandel's campaign calls him “Harry Reid’s worst nightmare,” a reference to the Nevada Democrat who would lose his position as Senate majority leader if Republicans gain a majority.
Mr. Mandel vowed he would serve only two terms if elected and would introduce legislation to prevent members of Congress from getting paid if they miss the annual budget deadline. One of his ads accuses Mr. Brown of having missed 350 votes while in Congress, which works out to about 3 percent of total votes from 1993 to 2012, but of voting six times to raise his own pay.
Congressional elections this year will force some voters to become reacquainted with their congressional districts.
For the first time, Toledo is split between two districts — the 9th, a primarily Democratic district now represented by Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), and the 5th, a primarily Republican district represented by Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green).
The 9th District gets all the older sections of Toledo along with Oregon and Washington and Jerusalem townships. The district continues along the Lake Erie coast and balloons into western Cuyahoga County, where an estimated half of the district’s voters live — ominous news for Toledoans long used to have a Toledo-dwelling congressman.
The 5th District includes for the first time Sylvania, Maumee, Ottawa Hills, parts of West and South Toledo, and all the Lucas County townships west of Toledo. It includes part of Ottawa County, Wood County, Fulton County, and 10 other counties in Ohio's northwest corner.
Miss Kaptur (D., Toledo), 66, is seeking a 16th term in the House, where she is pursing her caucus’ appointment to the top-ranking Democratic seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
Miss Kaptur’s Republican opponent is Samuel “Joe” Wurzelbacher, 38, of Springfield Township, known as “Joe the Plumber.” Mr. Wurzelbacher has raised money from around the country from fans whom he won after he became famous in 2008 for an impromptu confrontation over taxes with Mr. Obama in which Mr. Obama’s use of the phrase “spread the wealth around” was used by many conservatives as evidence that Mr. Obama was a closet socialist.
In the 5th District, Mr. Latta’s opponent is Lutheran minister and college English instructor Angela Zimmann of Springfield Township. Ms. Zimmann, 39, is attacking Mr.Latta as out of touch with the district because of his opposition to the 2009 auto industry bailout and as an enemy of women’s reproductive rights.
Mr. Latta, 56, has made opposition to new taxes and support of domestic energy, including drilling for oil in Alaska, key focuses of his agenda in Congress.
Libertarians are running in both districts, Eric Eberly of Bowling Green in the 5th and Sean Stipe of Lorain, in the 9th.
In Statehouse races, newly redrawn districts are forcing incumbent candidates to get acquainted with new voters, opening up opportunities for challengers.
In Ohio’s 2nd Senate, incumbent Republican Sen. Mark Wagoner of Ottawa Hills is not seeking re-election. Running to replace him are Republican Randy Gardner of Bowling Green and Democrat Jeff Bretz of North Baltimore.
The district includes Ottawa, Erie, and Wood counties, western Lucas County, and most of Fulton County, except for York and Swan Creek townships.
Toledo-area candidates for the state House include:
● 44th House District (central Toledo): incumbent Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo), unopposed.
● 45th House District (West, North, and East Toledo and Washington Township): incumbent Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), unopposed.
● 46th House District (Maumee, South Toledo, Oregon, and Jerusalem and Springfield townships): incumbent Rep. Matthew Szollosi (D., Oregon) against Dave Kissinger (R., Maumee).
● 47th House District (Sylvania, Sylvania Township, and Ottawa Hills, and Monclova, Waterville, Richfield, Harding, Spencer, Swanton, and Providence townships, in Lucas County, and all of Fulton County except for York and Swan Creek townships): incumbent Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) against Jeff Bunck (D., Monclova Township).
Contact Tom Troy at: email@example.com or 419-724-6058.