COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — One of Ohio’s winningest Democrats captured a third term in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday as his party hoped to turn a recent Republican tide in statewide races. Meanwhile, voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to make possession of all types of drugs misdemeanors.
Sherrod Brown, first elected to an Ohio office in 1974, defeated fourth-term U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci. Democrat Richard Cordray, President Barack Obama’s appointee as federal consumer protection chief, was in a tight race for governor with Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine. It’s a rematch of the 2010 election when DeWine narrowly ousted Cordray to become attorney general.
Issue 1 was presented as an effort to reduce the state prison population and divert savings to drug treatment. Most judicial and law enforcement groups opposed the measure. DeWine opposed it and Cordray supported it.
Polls had consistently shown Brown with a commanding lead. Some Democrats had predicted Brown could help lift other Democrats on the ticket.
Brown called it proof that “progressives can win — and win decisively — in the heartland.” Brown, criticized as voting like “a Hollywood liberal” by Renacci, has agreed on Trump’s moves to toughen trade agreements. But his victory speech made clear that he disapproves of the president’s rhetoric and other policies.
“We do not appeal to some by pushing down others,” Brown said. “We do not lie. We do not engage in hate speech. And we do not rip babies from their families at the border.”
He said populists aren’t racists or anti-Semitic and added: “We will never ever give up the hallowed ground of patriotism to the extremists — at the Statehouse and in the White House.”
DeWine’s been running in elections nearly as long as Brown, who unseated DeWine in the 2006 Senate race.
Republicans have dominated recent statewide elections, capped by Republican Donald Trump’s decisive 8-point victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
Some voters in Ohio said Trump was a factor when casting their Election Day ballots.
Kevin Benson, a 38-year-old graphic designer from Westerville in central Ohio, said he’s registered a Republican, considers himself an independent, and voted all Democrat on his polling place on Tuesday, mostly because of Trump.
“I’m frustrated with the way he’s acting, plus just Republicans in general … I’m just kind of dissatisfied across the board with them,” he said.
Grant Stitzlein, a 30-year-old registered Republican who works for FedEx Freight, said he did what Trump said when voting in the Columbus suburb of Dublin.
“We’re trying to make America great again, so I’m out here voting for the Republicans,” he said.
Linda Bishop, a 71-year-old textbook editor from Westerville, Ohio, said she voted for candidates from both major parties Tuesday but stuck with Democrats in the gubernatorial and congressional races. Bishop said disapproval of Trump was a factor.
“I wanted to be sure that we sent a strong message to him that we are not happy with what he’s doing with regard to immigration” Bishop said.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s office says more than 1.3 million people voted ahead of Tuesday’s election, far outpacing the number of votes cast early statewide four years ago. Officials say that through Monday, nearly 885,000 absentee ballots had been received by mail statewide and that 430,000 people voted early in person. That compares with around 719,000 people mailing in ballots in 2014 and 146,000 people voting early in person, for a total of about 865,000.
Around 8 million Ohioans are registered to vote.
Sam Rossi, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, said there had been no major problems reported in the state.
Ohioans were deciding another four down-ticket races, two Supreme Court seats, and dozens of state legislative races.
A woman who during the 2016 presidential election accused Donald Trump of sexually harassing her more than a decade ago lost her bid for a seat in Ohio’s legislature. Democrat Rachel Crooks lost to incumbent Republican state Rep. Bill Reineke in her first attempt at a public office.
Republicans were trying to maintain the 12-4 U.S. House delegation lead they’ve held since GOP-dominating redistricting for 2012.
The Democrats’ best chances for upsets appear to be in central Ohio’s 12th district, where Republican Troy Balderson, a former state senator, barely defeated Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor in an August special election, and in southwest Ohio’s 1st District, where Democratic upstart Aftab Pureval ran a well-funded race against Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, who is seeking his 12th term. Chabot got a late campaign boost from Trump’s visit to the district Oct. 12.