After unrelenting requests for fearless election predictions (OK, there were just dares and taunts from a couple of political junkies in the newsroom), I am hoping to better 2012’s near-perfect record of six out of seven correct calls.
Midterms elections, it must be emphasized, are tricky because of low voter turnout.
Turnout in the governor’s race — the top race in the state this year — could go as low as 42 percent, which would be a modern record low for a governor’s race in this state, according to John Green, director of the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.
Considering that about half the population of voting age isn’t registered, that’s a very small subset of voters, increasing the degree of difficulty for punditry. Still, without a competitive governor’s race, Democrats are the ones who should worry most. Stalwart Republicans tend to vote, no matter what.
That said, here’s how key races and an issue look from here:
Republicans will sweep races for statewide executive offices for the second time in a row, their candidates down the ticket benefitting from a blowout re-election victory for John Kasich over Democrat Ed FitzGerald.
The size of Kasich’s victory will create a tide too strong for Democratic challengers to overcome. If there is a breakthrough for Democrats, it will be in the race for state treasurer, where state Rep. Connie Pillich is challenging incumbent Josh Mandel, a candidate whose high negatives make him the most vulnerable Republican.
In the race between Judi French, appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court 20 months ago by Kasich, and John O’Donnell, a Cuyahoga County common pleas judge, O’Donnell will give the Democrats a statewide victory. The win will reinforce the name game in judicial elections; there is already one O’Donnell on the high court.
Despite a well-funded, refocused campaign emphasizing public safety, Issue 12, a temporary 0.25 percentage point sales tax increase, will fail in Summit County by a very narrow margin.
County leaders were smart to pull the original version of the issue, which called for a permanent sales tax increase that would have also funded a downtown arena. But even with the arena dropped and the tax made temporary, the issue still faced an uphill battle because of lingering confusion (which translates into a no vote) and the composition of the electorate (leaning conservative).
In local judicial races, Katarina Cook, a Republican who barely won re-election to the Akron Municipal Court last year, will oust John Quinn, a Democrat who is one of two domestic relations judges. Cook’s is another well-recognized name in judicial politics, and she will eventually give Republicans administrative control of the court, with the power to appoint magistrates, plum patronage jobs.
In another closely watched judicial race, Mary Margaret Rowlands, a Democrat, will keep her common pleas court judgeship with a narrow victory over Beth Whitmore, a Republican now sitting on the 9th District Ohio Court of Appeals. Whitmore made her unusual move because she will soon be blocked from seeking another six-year term on the appeals court because of age limits.
Democrats may have wanted a sweep in the race for three at-large seats on the Summit County Council, but it won’t work out to their advantage.
The three incumbents running are Republican Bill Roemer and Democrats Ilene Shapiro and Sandra Kurt. Former Fiscal Officer John Donofrio, a Democrat who retired in 2011, will end up bumping Kurt, not Roemer, one of only two Republicans on the council. Donofrio could just step down after winning, allowing Democrats to appoint Kurt in his place.
In the most competitive legislative race in the area, Anthony DeVitis, the Republican incumbent in the 36th Ohio House District, will win another term by beating Paula Prentice, the Democratic challenger and member of the County Council.
DeVitis’ victory was assured by his strong name recognition (from the family grocery business), a down-to-earth campaign style and plenty of negative ads and mailers from the Ohio House Republican caucus and the Ohio Republican Party, while Prentice relied mostly on knocking on doors, with some television.
The toughest call is on Issue 12. No organized opposition surfaced, giving the campaign for the issue a slim chance to win.
Hoffman is a Beacon Journal editorial writer. He can be reached at 330-996-3740 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.