On November 4, voters in Ohio cast ballots in the 2014 general election. Statewide offices — including Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General and Supreme Court Justices — were all on the ballot, as were seats in the Ohio General Assembly. As expected, it was a landslide year for Republicans — the party retained five statewide seats and control of both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate. Here is Bricker & Eckler’s overview of the highlights from the general election and details on races of particular interest.
As expected, incumbent John Kasich was successful in his bid for another term as Ohio’s Governor, beating challenger Ed FitzGerald 64% to 33%. Green Party challenger Anita Rios received 3% of the vote. Governor Kasich won in 86 of Ohio’s 88 counties, including Mr. FitzGerald’s home county of Cuyahoga. The only states to turn blue for this year's gubernatorial race were Athens County and Monroe County.
Secretary of State
Incumbent Jon Husted was successful against Nina Turner, a State Senator from Cleveland. Secretary of State Husted won 60% to 35%. Only Athens County and Senator Turner’s home county, Cuyahoga, had majorities for the Democrat challenger. Kevin Knedler, a Libertarian, picked up 4.6% of the vote.
In one of the more closely contested statewide elections, incumbent Josh Mandel held off a challenge from State Representative Connie Pillich (D-Cincinnati) to retain his spot as Ohio’s Treasurer for another term. Treasurer Mandel successfully won reelection with 57% of the vote to Representative Pillich’s 43%.
Ohio voters also gave incumbent Dave Yost another term as Auditor. Auditor Yost faced a challenge from State Representative John Patrick Carney, a Democrat from Columbus, and won 57% to 38%. Libertarian Bob Bridges received 4.7% of the vote.
Attorney General Mike DeWine also won reelection over challenger David Pepper by a margin of 62% to 38%. Pepper ran for Auditor of State in 2010 but was unsuccessful in that attempt as well.
Ohio Supreme Court
Two Ohio Supreme Court Justices were on the ballot this November.
Justice Sharon Kennedy handily defeated challenger Tom Letson, a current term-limited State Representative from Warren. Justice Kennedy, a former police officer, beat Representative Letson 73% to 27%.
Justice Judi French faced a much more serious challenge from Judge John O’Donnell, a current sitting judge on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. While Judge O’Donnell is of no relation to current Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell, name confusion in this race was difficult to overcome. With just two years on the bench, Justice French was appointed by Governor John Kasich, and the Governor threw extensive support behind protecting his choice for the high court. In the end, Justice French won by a margin of 56% to 44%.
Ohio House of Representatives
In a year with overwhelming Republican success in Ohio, no group was more successful than the House Republican Caucus, which added five seats to its majority in the General Assembly. The Republicans now hold 65 seats to the 34 held by Democrats. Although this election was solid for incumbents, some notable losses by sitting Democratic Representatives and pickups of open seats previously held by Democrats helped bolster the Republicans’ majority.
Ohio House of Representatives: Incumbent Losses
In the biggest upset of the evening, Representative Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island) lost his reelection bid in the 89th House District. Representative Redfern also serves as the Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. His opponent was Republican Steven Kraus, who won with 51% of the vote to Representative Redfern’s 49%. With the Democrats losing all statewide races and a number of House seats, in addition to Redfern's seat, it is expected that Representative Redfern will step down as party chairman before the end of the year.
Representative Nick Barborak (D-Lisbon) lost his bid for reelection in the 5th District to Republican Tim Ginter. Mr. Ginter, a pastor who has previously run for State Senate and Congress, won by a margin of 60% to 40%. Representative Barborak was first elected to that seat in 2012 when he defeated incumbent Republican Craig Newbold with 50.57% of the vote.
Representative Roland Winburn (D-Dayton), in his third term representing the 43rd District, lost his reelection bid to Jeff Rezabek, a Republican attorney. Representative Winburn received 42% of the vote to Mr. Rezabek’s 58%.
Ohio House of Representatives: New Republican Seats
In the 55th House District, the seat being vacated by term-limited Representative Matt Lundy (D-Elyria) was picked up by Republican Nathan Manning, a Prosecutor for the City of North Ridgeville. Mr. Manning is the son of Senator Gayle Manning who represents the 13th Senate District, which includes the 55th House District. His father Jeff Manning was also a State Representative from 2000-2003. His opponent, Democrat Brendan Mackin, currently serves as Prosecutor and Assistant Law Director for the City of Stow. Mr. Manning won with 56% of the vote; Mr. Mackin received 44%.
Representative Connie Pillich (D-Cincinnati) decided to not run for reelection to the 28th House District seat, instead throwing her hat in the ring to run for Treasurer of State against incumbent Josh Mandel. Her seat was picked up by Republican Jonathan Dever, who beat Democrat Micah Kamrass 56% to 44%.
Ohio House of Representatives: Races of Interest
Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bob Cupp was successful in his race to replace term-limited Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Huffman (R-Lima) as the Republican candidate for the 4th House District. Justice Cupp defeated Democrat Bo Huenke 74% to 26%.
Current Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) was also successful in his run to replace term-limited Representative Jerry Stebelton (R-Lancaster) in the 77th District. Senator Schaffer faced a challenge from Democrat Hollie Saunders, but won 68% to 32%.
Current Representative Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville) was reelected to represent the 19th House District. Representative Gonzales had faced a challenge from Libertarian Chad Monnin and Democrat Mike Johnston. Mr. Monnin is a businessman from New Albany who, according to his post-general campaign finance report, contributed more than $300,000 to his own campaign. Mr. Johnston, running as a Democrat, previously ran for the seat as a Libertarian — losing in 2010 to Representative Gonzales. This year, Representative Gonzales won 59% of the vote to Mr. Monnin’s 8% and Mr. Johnston’s 32%.
In a surprisingly close race, Representative Debbie Phillips (D-Athens) has 50.34% of the votes cast in the 94th House District to 49.66% for Republican challenger Yolan Dennis. Representative Phillips, who serves as the Assistant Minority Leader, is currently leading by 194 votes with 99.67% of precincts reporting. Provisional ballots have not yet been counted and the margin may still narrow in this race. If it gets close enough, a recount could be necessary.
Ohio House of Representatives: Tea Party Successes
This November saw the election of several Tea Party candidates.
Former Representative Tom Brinkman, who beat incumbent Peter Stautberg (R-Cincinnati) in the May primary, was unchallenged in the general election and will be the new Representative for the 27th House District.
Kyle Koehler, who ran to replace term-limited member Ross McGregor (R-Springfield), beat Democrat Darrell Jackson 61% to 39%. Nino Vitale was unopposed in the general election in the 85th District to fill the seat being vacated by Representative John Adams (R-Sidney).
Paul Zeltwanger was successful against Democrat Rick Smith to fill the seat in the 54th House District, replacing incumbent Representative Peter Beck (R-Mason).
As in the Ohio House of Representatives, the Republicans were successful in retaining control of the Ohio Senate.
While no Senate races were particularly close heading into November, bids by Senator Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) and Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Columbus) were watched closely.
Senator Bill Beagle successfully retained his seat representing the 5th Senate District. Senator Beagle faced a challenge from Democrat Dee Gillis but defeated her 57% to 43%.
Likewise, Senator Kevin Bacon was successful in his reelection bid against Democrat challenger Star Johnson. He won 62% to 38%.
In the 9th Senate District, Republican Charlie Winburn and Democrat Cecil Thomas vied for the seat being vacated by Senator Eric Kearney (D-Cincinnati). In a district in which President Obama won 74% of the vote in 2012, this race was not expected to be as interesting as it was. In the end, Mr. Thomas retained the seat for the Democrats and won with 57% to Mr. Winburn’s 43%.
Former Representative Kenny Yuko will be returning to Columbus as the new Senator for the 25th District, replacing Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) who ran statewide for Ohio Secretary of State.
Representative Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) will fill the seat vacated by Senator Tim Schaffer in the 31st District. Rep. Hottinger is a veteran of the Ohio Statehouse and returns to the Senate with a close relationship to Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina). He is expected to be very active in committee and caucus work.
Representative Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) ran as the favorite against Republican Sikiru Kafaru for the seat being vacated by Senator Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland). The week before the election, Representative Williams pled no contest and was found guilty of two misdemeanor campaign finance charges. The latest in a slew of indictments of Ohio House of Representatives members, Representative Williams had purchased Ohio State University football tickets with campaign funds and then sold them for personal gain. Sentencing is scheduled for December 5.