COLUMBUS — Democrats have no illusions of recapturing control of the Ohio House they held less than four years ago.
But they hope on Nov. 4 to begin clawing their way back into legislative relevance and want to start by stripping away Republicans’ 60th vote. That vote transformed the GOP from a simple majority to a super-majority capable of overturning gubernatorial vetoes and directly placing proposed initiatives on the ballot without the help of a single Democrat.
“If we can take a few steps forward this cycle, then next cycle, a presidential year … that’s when you start to make serious gains,” said Aaron Fisher, who’s running the House Democratic campaign effort.
Democrats would need a net pickup of 11 seats to regain the speaker’s podium. No one is predicting that will happen.
But that 60th vote? That’s a different story.
“We’ve got these far-right extremists in the legislature,” Mr. Fisher said. “You saw what happened with Medicaid expansion. That should have been an open-and-shut easy thing to do, but the [Republican] party was totally torn apart by that for some crazy reason.”
That’s the case Democrats will make in several targeted races this year, arguing that the Republican candidate, often the incumbent, is too conservative for the district.
Republicans, however, say they believe it’s possible to not only retain that 60th vote, but to further solidify the majority.
“There are a number of previously targeted seats against us where they found good Democrats to run against good Republicans, but [the Republicans] do not have an opponent this time,” said Mike Dittoe, House GOP campaign spokesman.
An example is Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) in the 47th District encompassing western Lucas County and most of Fulton Couny.
Democrats are outnumbered 60 to 39 in the House.
In the Senate, Democrats haven’t been competitive for decades and are currently outnumbered 23-10 by Republicans. Democrats have struggled just to keep those 10 seats.
The overwhelmingly Democratic, Toledo’s 11th District held by Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) that was won by President Obama with 70.5 percent of the vote in 2012 is suddenly considered to be in play for Republicans.
Some believe the ballot presence of Jack Ford — a sitting Toledo councilman, former mayor, and former Ohio House minority leader — as an independent could split the Democratic and African-American vote and set up Republican Ernest McCarthy for an upset.
Republicans, meanwhile, think they might have the right moderate candidate in the overwhelmingly Democratic 9th Senate District in Cincinnati about to be vacated by Democratic Sen. Eric Kearney.
And Democrats are targeting incumbent Sens. Bill Beagle (R., Tipp City) and Gayle Manning (R., North Ridgeville) in, respectively, the Dayton area’s 5th District and the Lorain area’s 13th District. Both were previously held by Democrats.
The only northwest Ohio House district considered to be in play is the 88th, encompassing Sandusky County and most of Seneca County. And it is only considered vulnerable because the current officeholder, state Rep. Rex Damschroder (R., Fremont) is off the ballot.
A Democrat hasn’t held this seat since Rep. Dwight Wise was defeated by Mr. Damschroder in 1994. Democrats didn’t bother to field a candidate this year until an error with Mr. Damschroder’s petitions forced him off the ballot.
Tiffin auto dealer Bill Reineke, Jr., won the Republican primary. He will face Bill Young, a retired teacher from Green Springs who ran a last-minute Democratic write-in campaign.
“[Mr. Young] has run before,” Mr. Fisher said. “He is a strong candidate. Frankly, with all the mess with Damschroder, it’s a serious opportunity for a pick up.”
In 2012, Mr. Young garnered 44 percent of the vote to Mr. Damschroder’s 55.6 percent.
“With [Mr. Reineke’s] presence in the district as an auto dealer and being such a familiar name in the community for so many years, he will win that seat against a guy whom Damschroder beat in 2012,” Mr. Dittoe said.
Other Republican-held House seats targeted by Democrats include:
● The 79th District in Springfield, held by term-limited moderate Republican Rep. Ross McGregor. Democrats offer former Clark County Deputy Sheriff Darrell Jackson to the Republicans’ Kyle Koehler, a software engineer.
● The 98th, encompassing Tuscarawas County and part of Holmes, that was so close two years ago that it went into recount. This time, incumbent Rep. Al Landis (R., Dover) faces Jeremiah Johnson, a former Sugarcreek mayor.
● The suburban Akron 36th, which went decidedly for Mr. Obama in 2012 but is held by Rep. Anthony DeVitis (R., Uniontown). Democrats counter with Summit County Councilman Paula Prentice.
● The suburban Columbus 19th, where Democrats hope self-funded Libertarian businessman Chad Monnin will siphon votes from the Republican incumbent, Rep. Anne Gonzales,of Westerville. The Democrat, Mike Johnston, once ran as the Libertarian in this district.
● The suburban Columbus 24th, where freshman Rep. Stephanie Kunze (R., Hilliard) also faces competition from a Democrat and Libertarian — Kathy Hoff and Mark Noble, respectively.
● Suburban Akron’s 37th, where Democrats claim the incumbent, Rep. Kristina Roegner (R., Hudson) is too conservative for the district. She faces a challenge from Stow attorney David Worhatch.
● The 7th in the Cleveland suburbs where Rep. Mike Dovilla (R., Berea) narrowly survived a Democratic challenge from former Rep. Matt Patten (D., Strongsville) in 2012. It’s a rematch this year.
● The suburban Cleveland 6th where Rep. Marlene Anielski (R., Walton Hills) faces Democrat Anthony Fossaceca, a Chagrin Falls marketing executive.
● The 16th, a competitive district in Cleveland’s western suburbs, where Rep. Nan Baker (R., Westlake) is defending her seat against Democrat Todd LeVeck, a Westlake teacher.
Among the Democrat-held seats targeted by Republicans:
● The Cincinnati suburban 28th District where Rep. Connie Pillich, a Democrat, has repeatedly frustrated Republicans who felt this district rightfully belonged to them. Now that Ms. Pillich is running for state treasurer, Republicans hope Cincinnati attorney Jonathan Dever will take the seat back by defeating recent Ohio State University law school graduate Micah Kamrass.
● The 5th in Columbiana County, where Rep. Nick Barborak (D., Lisbon) won a squeaker in 2012. This time Republicans offer conservative Salem pastor Tim Ginter.
● The Elyria-based 55th in Lorain County where Republican Nathan Manning, son of Senator Manning, is running against Democrat Brendan Mackin, assistant city law director in Stow. The district is currently held by term-limited Rep. Matt Lundy, a Democrat.
● The 43rd, which took a decidedly suburban shift into Preble County in the last redistricting. Mr. Romney won convincingly here in 2012, so Republicans hope Clayton attorney Jeff Rezabek can upset incumbent Rep. Roland Winburn (D., Dayton).
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.