Low turnout primaries can be scary, a small number of unrepresentative zealots sometimes able to win the day. And in today’s gerrymandered districts, nominees once considered ideological or ineffective can win a general election.
Tuesday certainly presented opportunities for such mischief. About 12 percent of Summit County voters came to polls, a worse showing than for the state as a whole, which had a turnout of about 16 percent. Fortunately, the Republicans and Democrats who showed up to vote in this part of Ohio chose wisely.
Let’s look at the results of four primaries, two Republican and two Democratic.
Among Democrats, the risk was that the two Ohio House seats it holds in Summit County (out of five) would end up in the hands of what might be called the Ernie Tarle axis.
That would have happened if incumbent Democrat Zack Milkovich, a Tarle protege, had won in the 35th Ohio House District and if Summit County Councilman Frank Comunale, a former supporter of Tarle and Milkovich, had won the 34th District.
Instead, Summit County’s Ohio House delegation will include two young, bright attorneys, Greta Johnson and Emilia Sykes, both with the potential to grow into serious legislative leaders.
Johnson, in her first campaign, upended the ineffective Milkovich, and Sykes, daughter of term-limited Vernon Sykes, overcame a flood of mailers, some negative, from a big-spending Comunale campaign.
Johnson got a major in-kind contribution from Akron City Council President Garry Moneypenny, who makes it a practice to send out absentee ballot applications to those in Ward 10 who vote that way.
This year, besides an absentee ballot application and a stamped return envelop, Moneypenny included a letter supporting Johnson and a piece of her campaign literature.
Sykes, also in her first campaign, battled Comunale to a virtual tie in his Ward 8 stronghold, which he won by fewer than 150 votes. But in one of her most important strongholds, Ward 4, Sykes beat Comunale by almost 800 votes.
Because of gerrymandering, both Johnson and Sykes faced their most serious campaigning in the primary. Once at the Statehouse, they can begin working on important issues, reaching across the aisle, following the legacy set by a Democratic legislative delegation once regarded as the most influential big-county delegation in the state.
Among its leaders were Oliver Ocasek and Ken Cox in the Senate and Vern Cook and Cliff Skeen in the House.
For their part, Summit Republicans stuck with winning incumbents Frank LaRose in the 27th Ohio Senate District and David Joyce in the 14th U.S. House District.
Both faced tea party-backed challengers. In Summit County, LaRose, of Copley Township, beat newcomer Caleb Davenport 69 percent to 31 percent and Joyce beat his challenger, state Rep. Matt Lynch, 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent. Those big margins were helpful because other parts of the far-flung districts include more conservative territory.
Leading up to the primary, Republican leaders were worried about LaRose and Joyce, both freshmen who have shown an ability to work in a bipartisan way on tough issues rather than play to the emotions of the far-right wing of the party.
Davenport and Lynch are both skilled debaters, sticking to their points, unwilling to compromise on the issues they care about, such as spending and abortion. The trouble is, the real work of the Ohio Senate and the U.S. House isn’t done that way. It’s accomplished by pragmatists such as LaRose and Joyce, who want to pass bills, not play to the crowd.
Last week’s column used an outdated description of the 34th Ohio House District. Because of local boundary changes since the state apportionment board acted, the district now includes all of Akron wards 2, 4 and 8, much of wards 1, 3 and 5, parts of wards 7, 9 and 10, plus small parts of Cuyahoga Falls and Bath Township.
Hoffman is a Beacon Journal editorial writer. He can be reached at 330-996-3740 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.