By Stephanie Warsmith
and Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writers
Summit County contributed heavily to the Republican takeover of the Ohio House, accounting for three of the 13 additional seats the GOP claimed Tuesday.
The gains also gave Republicans the majority of Summit County's five legislative seats.
The dramatic shift left local Democrats stunned and Republicans gleeful.
''I'm actually surprised,'' said state Rep. Brian Williams, D-Akron, one of the candidates who lost. ''I didn't think I'd lose. I thought it would be close. I thought we had enough support out there.''
Summit County GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff said, ''I'm so happy I can't see straight.''
He said Republicans won more offices within the county than Democrats for the first time since the 1930s.
Republicans reclaimed the control of the House that the Democrats had enjoyed for only two years, winning 59 of 99 seats, according to unofficial results. Republicans controlled the House for the previous 14 years.
Incumbent state Reps. Mike Moran, D-Hudson, and Steve Dyer, D-Green, also were defeated. Rep. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, and Zack Milkovich, a first-time candidate from Akron who defeated incumbent John Otterman in the primary, were victorious.
Ohio's GOP-skewed state legislative results mirror those throughout the United States. Republicans picked up more
than 650 seats and will control about 53 percent of the 7,382 legislative positions nationwide.
''It was pretty much a Republican sweep across the country,'' said Tim Storey, an elections analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver. ''It's the biggest shift in the country since Watergate, and it leaves Republicans with the most seats since 1928.''
Storey said the GOP also gained majorities in at least 18 legislative chambers nationwide, including Ohio, and Republicans now are in a commanding position to redraw congressional and state district lines.
Economy dogs Democrats
Storey attributed the Republican swell to the economic climate and the fact there were more Republicans and fewer Democrats running for state legislative seats.
''They went after a lot of seats because they knew they had a tail wind,'' he said.
John Green, director of the University of Akron's Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, was surprised by the Republican legislative gains both statewide and in Summit County.
''With my reading of the tea leaves, I thought the Republicans likely would take back control,'' he said. ''But I didn't think they would get as many seats as they ended up getting.''
In Summit, Green thought the GOP might gain one or two seats.
Green attributes the impressive GOP gains to backlash against Democrats and to the high quality of the Republican challengers, who were well-funded. He also thinks negative campaigning in the races, particularly the Moran-versus-Kristina Daley Roegner and William-versus-Lynn Slaby matchups, might have influenced some voters.
The Republicans' 19-seat majority in the House means the party probably will have more success getting legislation passed, Green said.
By taking back the House and winning all of the statewide seats from governor on down the Republicans essentially wiped away the gains the Democrats had made since 2006, Green said.
''One of the things we know from the 2006 and 2010 elections is that a lot of voters expect action,'' Green said. ''They are willing to switch parties if they are dissatisfied.
''The Republicans now have a real challenge: They have to govern effectively or we may have another of these elections.''
Williams, who worked for the Akron Public Schools, including as superintendent, for 37 years before being elected to the legislature in 2004, is concerned about how the Republican-controlled House will handle school funding.
''For the 16 years when the Republicans were in charge of the House, Senate and governor's chair, school districts suffered,'' he said.
Williams hopes the new legislature won't ''tear apart'' or ''underfund'' Gov. Ted Strickland's school-funding changes.
The shift in numbers means leadership changes as well.
Sykes will lose control of the powerful House Finance and Appropriations Committee, which will play a key role in deciding how to address a projected $8 billion hole in the state budget. And, state Rep. William Batchelder, R-Medina, finally will get the chance to be speaker, a position he has aspired to hold.
The challenges will be a tall order for Summit County's delegation four of five will be new to the job.
Roegner, a Hudson councilwoman who campaigned on the need for smaller government and more fiscal responsibility, said she's up to the task. She said she won't let down the people who supported and prayed for her during her campaign.
''I will work my hardest to represent their will down in Columbus,'' she said.