Battleground Ohio - The Ohio General Assembly - parting a sea of red.
The Virginia elections are fast approaching a point where the cake is baked. It is time to begin broadening my focus to other parts of the country in preparation for next year’s elections. As I have just moved back to Ohio and Ohio is a critical battleground state, in every election, I have decided to begin to do profiles on the state legislative districts up for election in 2018.
As you can see by the maps in the header photo of this post, the state legislative outlook here is fairly grim for Democrats. Gerrymandering plays a huge role in this. I want to acknowledge that up front. That said, this is the map we have, and this is the battlefield we must win on to at least make Ohio bluer if not turn each of these chambers blue.
My general philosophy
I have done a great deal of writing here on Kos, most cross-posted to and from my blog The Full Slate Project. Here is a list of my basic theory of the case. Each bullet is linked to an existing post I have done in the past that illustrates that point.
- State legislative races are critical.
- Republicans are only 24 state legislative seats away from controlling all legislative bodies in 38 states. If they hit that number they can change our constitution almost at will.
- The claim that voters in “Red America” are not voting in their own interests rings hollow when we do not contest so many state legislative races.
- Down ballot races like these state legislative races can build the party and could lead to positive outcomes up-ballot.
- Winning elections is the best way to pressure Republicans to oppose Trump's agenda.
That is just a sampling of my writing on these topics. I have profiles on every Republican-held House of Delegates district in Virginia as well. It is my intent to do a profile for each district in Ohio now.
The State of Ohio
Ohio is viewed as a classic “swing state” in Presidential elections. That may well be true, but having Republicans dominate state-wide offices and massive control over both legislative bodies points to a different story. We have got to turn things around at this level and if we do we might move it out of swing state territory and just make it blue moving forward. Here is the partisan composition of the Ohio General Assembly:
Partisan composition of the Ohio General Assembly.
- Total Seats = 132
- Total House of Representatives Seats = 99
- Republican House Districts = 66
- Democratic House Districts = 33
- Constituents per House District = 116,000
- House constituents represented by Republicans = 7,656,000
- House constituents represented by Democrats = 3,828,000
- Total Senate Seats = 33
- Republican Senate Districts = 24
- Democratic Senate Districts = 9
- Constituents per Senate District = 350,000
- Senate constituents represented by Republicans = 8,400,000
- Senate constituents represented by Democrats = 3,150,000
Here is a different graphic presentation of the partisan make up of the Ohio General Assembly to highlight the scale of the challenge.
The above is the breakdown for the seated General Assembly at this time. Below is the breakdown of the Democratic competition for the General Assembly in 2016.
- Democrats contested 80 of 99 House of Representatives races, that leaves 19 uncontested by Democrats.
- Democrats did not seek to represent 2,204,000 Ohioans in the House of Representatives.
- Democrats won 33 of 80 contested races or just 41.3% of the contested races.
- Democrats contested 30 of 33 Senate races, that leaves 3 uncontested by Democrats.
- Democrats did not seek to represent 1,050,000 Ohioans in the Senate.
Ohio Democrats compete pretty well, so where do we go from here?
After having spent much of the year working on Virginia, one of the obvious problems there was we just did not contest enough races. Last cycle there we only ran 56 candidates for 100 seats, leaving only 7 contested races won needed for Republicans to secure their majority in Virginia.
Ohio is not faced with that level of disengagement (and Virginians have stepped up in an impressive way this year). Having founded The Full Slate Project, I am an advocate for challenging every single constitutionally established elective office, so there is work to do on that front in Ohio, but we do need to take a hard look at how to turn the tide here none the less.
Here are my initial thoughts:
- We need to organize precinct by precinct. We have people running for these races, but it is pretty clear we do not have enough infrastructure in place to make their candidacies viable.
- We need to find a message that will connect with a broader electorate. My hunch is, since I lived here before, that we rely too much on the inertia of national politics to determine our fate at this level. We must connect with these voters where they are at. At the same time, this is not a call to moderate, disguise or otherwise back down from our commitment to racial, gender and social justice issues in general. Our problem is not our positions on these issues, it is our lack of connection on other issues as well.
- We need to find good candidates. We need to run fair and competitive nominating contests.
- We need to make sure a broad spectrum of candidates has enough resources to mount a credible campaign.
I would love to hear from everyone, particularly Ohioans, their ideas that might help turn the tide here in Ohio as well, particularly within the General Assembly.