COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Once fondly referred to as a “bellwether” and often a swing state in major elections, Ohioans by and large elected candidates who were squarely and staunchly red in 2020 — and they followed a similar trend Tuesday night.
The Ohio GOP was projected by the Associated Press to win each of its statewide races in the midterm elections as of Wednesday morning. In almost every case, those Republican party candidates led their Democratic opponents by double-digit margins.
In the biggest race of the night for the state, Republican and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance edged out Democratic member of Congress Tim Ryan for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by outgoing Sen. Rob Portman. The race garnered national media attention and regularly polled in a statistical dead heat. But on Election Night, Vance beat Ryan by nearly 7 percentage points.
Republican incumbent Mike DeWine handedly defeated Democratic challenger Nan Whaley in the race for the governor’s office. Called earlier in the night than the U.S. Senate, results later showed Whaley trailing DeWine by double digits — predicted in the bulk of independent polls leading into Election Day.
Ohio has not elected a Democratic governor in over a decade. Across the board, the highest titles within the executive branch have been held by the GOP since early 2011, with a Democrat last sitting in the state auditor’s office in 1994.
The three seats voters were tasked with deciding on the state’s highest court went red Tuesday night, too, after a state law placed candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court next to their party labels on the ballot for the first time.
Both chambers in the Ohio General Assembly will hold onto their Republican supermajorities, voters decided Tuesday. Just 7 of the 33 members of the Ohio Senate will be Democrats come 2023.
“We achieved a level not reached in more than 70 years,” Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman said in a statement. “The last time the Senate had a 26-member supermajority was during the 99th General Assembly in 1951.”
And with one fewer member heading to Washington D.C. in 2023, the lion’s share of seats on a Congressional district map deemed unconstitutional went to Republicans — although Democrats flipped a Cincinnati-area seat from red to blue, ousting incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot.
It’s not a new trend. In 2020, for the first time since the 1970s, Ohio pledged its electoral votes to the candidate who did not win the presidential election. While the country elected current President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump was the majority’s favored candidate.
An analyst for each party in the state agreed on one point Tuesday night: Democrats are not running campaigns that are winning with Ohioans.
GOP strategist Mike Gonidakis, a Columbus attorney and the president of Ohio Right to Life, said even with major wins, it was not necessarily time to for Republicans to get comfortable.
“We don’t take anything for granted, because let’s not forget, Barack Obama won Ohio twice,” Gonidakis said.
Still, Gonidakis chalked it up as a successful night for his party. “Candidates are talking about kitchen table issues to Ohioans: Jobs, the economy, health care. That’s what’s getting them across the finish line,” he said.
Democratic strategist Greg Haas said the biggest win of the night for Democrats in Ohio was Tim Ryan — even if he didn’t, ultimately, win.
“The Democratic Party, unfortunately, has been running races that don’t fit in Ohio very well,” Haas said. “He gave us a basis for saying, ‘Don’t write Ohio off, and reengage in Ohio.’ I mean this race could have looked a lot different if the Democrats nationally, in terms of Tim Ryan, had recognized you can win in Ohio.”
In a statement Tuesday night, Ohio Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Walters said the state party would “dissect” why in the coming weeks — outside of defending two and gaining one U.S. House seat — Buckeye state Democrats fared poorly.