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7 Ohio Midterm Races that Could Change the State's Political Future

Ohio state with I voted images over it
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Sep 23, 2022

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Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, we're breaking down some of the key races in states facing tight races. 

In Ohio, Dems are pulling out alllll the stops to keep or flip seats in the increasingly red state. That could change the state's future — not to mention the makeup of the House and Senate. Let's jump in.

The state of voting in Ohio

Since the early '90s, Ohio has consistently swung from red to blue and has sent an even mix of Dems and Republicans to the US Senate. But in 2016, it turned increasingly red – both at the federal and state levels. Today, while there’s still a Democrat and a Republican representing Ohio in the Senate, Republicans hold the majority over Ohio's US House seats, governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and the state's legislature.

And Republican power could continue to grow during this year's midterm elections thanks to new GOP-drawn congressional maps. Which, by the way, the state's Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional because of how much they favored Republican candidates. (Note: Because the ruling came down close to the election, the state is still allowed to use them come November.)

Despite the odds, Dems are still hopeful that Ohio could swing in their direction due to national issues like abortion

Races to watch

Here are the top races to watch at the state and federal level in Ohio. PS: Here’s what each elected position actually does. 

State

  • Gubernatorial Race

    • The candidates: Incumbent Richard Michael DeWine (R) vs. Nan Whaley (D)

    • Stakes: Even though DeWine is very likely to win and keep the the seat red (as it’s been since 2011), Whaley is still giving it her all and focusing on abortion rights. That could give her an edge since the state has banned abortions at six weeks (though that’s been temporarily blocked by a judge). But over half of Ohio voters support access to abortion. 

    • What to know: First, a quick recap on DeWine's experience. After high-profile roles at both the state level (think: attorney general and lieutenant governor) and federal level (think: in the House and the Senate), DeWine became governor in 2018. Since then, he says he’s focused on cutting taxes, creating more jobs, and fighting crime. And plans to do the same if he wins a new term. Meanwhile, Whaley (the former mayor of Dayton, OH) says she’ll defend abortion rights, expand paid family leave and gun control, and send $350 to middle-class Ohioans to ease the impact of inflation.

  • Attorney General Race

    • The candidates: Incumbent Dave Yost (R) vs. State Rep. Jeff Crossman (D)

    • Stakes: State AGs are in charge of enforcing state laws. And in a state with a six-week abortion ban (though, that’s been temporarily blocked), how that’s enforced will be left up to either Yost or Crossman. 

    • What to know: Yost – who helped put the abortion ban in place post-Roe – has already shown how he’d enforce it. In July, a 10-year-old girl from Ohio made national headlines after having to travel to Indiana for an abortion. Initially, AG Yost cast doubt on her story. But when it turned out to be true, he changed his tune. Although Crossman doesn’t explicitly address abortion on his campaign site, he has criticized Yost for limiting abortion access in the state.

  • Secretary of State Race

    • The candidates: Incumbent Frank LaRose (R) vs. Chelsea Clark (D) 

    • Stakes: In Ohio, the secretary of state is the chief election official. Meaning, they’re in charge of administering elections and ensuring the accuracy of election results.

    • What to know: LaRose has been in office since 2019, and during that time he’s made “securing elections” a top priority. In fact, he said one of his first actions in office was ordering an audit of every election. Meanwhile, Clark, who is a local city council member, wants to focus on protecting voting rights and modernizing voter registration. 

Federal

  • Senate Race

    • The candidates: Rep. Tim Ryan (D) vs. J.D. Vance (R)

    • Stakes: ICYMI, the Senate is split nearly 50-50. Meaning, both Democrats and Republicans are eager to pick up each and every open seat. Which Dems believe could happen in Ohio. Even though Project FiveThirtyEight says Vance is “favored” to win the seat, recent polls have shown that Vance and Ryan are practically tied. Plus, Ryan’s campaign has raised a whopping $21.5 million (compared to Vance’s $3.6 million). 

    • What to know: Ryan – who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2020 – represents Ohio’s 13th congressional district. In the Senate, he says he'd focus on investing in healthcare, protecting natural resources, modernizing the immigration system, and defending reproductive rights. Vance, on the other hand, is a Trump-endorsed candidate who wrote the bestselling book turned Netflix movie, Hillbilly Elegy. In addition to being anti-CRT, pro-Second Amendment, and anti-abortion, some of his top issues are the economy, “election integrity,” and immigration.

  • 9th Congressional District

    • The candidates: Incumbent Marcy Kaptur (D) vs. J.R. Majewski (R)

    • Stakes: Thanks to redistricting, this solidly blue district now has a slight lean to the right, according to Project FiveThirtyEight. Meaning, Kaptur will have to fight even harder to keep her seat.

    • What to know: Kaptur wants to prioritize the economy, energy and infrastructure, agriculture and nutrition, and veterans. Majewski wants to protect constitutional rights (like the Second Amendment), limit the federal gov, and focus on energy, law enforcement, and “election integrity.”

  • 13th Congressional District Race

    • The candidates: State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D) vs. Madison Gesiotto Gilbert (R)

    • Stakes: Sykes and Gilbert are running to fill Democrat Tim Ryan’s old congressional seat. But thanks to redistricting, the newly redrawn district now leans slightly red – which might explain why Gilbert is “favored” to win the seat. 

    • What to know: Sykes wants to focus on the economy, women’s healthcare, and voting rights. Gilbert — who is anti-abortion, pro-Second Amendment, and anti-CRT — wants to lower taxes and investigate voter fraud.

Ballot measures to watch

  • Issue 1: Voting yes would amend the Ohio constitution to change how courts set the amount for bail. And, when doing so, it would require the courts to consider public safety, the offense, criminal records, and the individual’s “likelihood of returning to court.” Current AG Yost supports this amendment. Voting no would not change the state’s constitution or require courts to consider these factors. 

  • Issue 2: Voting yes would amend the Ohio constitution to prohibit local govs from letting people who aren’t citizens or “lack the qualifications” to vote from voting in local elections. LaRose, the current secretary of state, supports this amendment. Voting no would not change the state’s constitution or prohibit local govs from letting non-citizens, or citizens who don’t have the qualifications, to vote. 

theSkimm

Ohio’s federal elections could help decide control of the House and Senate. Which means your vote could influence what direction the nation takes. And with Election Day right around the corner, now’s the time to register to vote. Reminder: In Ohio, you must register by Oct. 11. 

PS: Check out our page that will help you build your ballot before you cast your vote.

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