U.S. Sen. Sherrod C. Brown, D-Cleveland, cemented his position as a liberal in a relatively conservative state Nov. 6, defeating U.S. Rep. James B. Renacci, R-Wadsworth, for a third six-year term representing Ohio in Washington.
Brown won with 2,286,730 votes (53.2 percent) and was the only Democrat to capture statewide office in this year’s midterm elections, according to unofficial results from the office of the Secretary of State. Renacci earned 2,011,832 votes (46.8 percent).
“Tonight, Ohio, you showed the country that by putting people first and by honoring the dignity of work, we can carry a state (President) Donald Trump won by nearly 10 points,” Brown said in a victory speech ticking off his key concerns. “And you showed that we do it without compromising on women’s rights or civil rights or LGBTQ rights. We do it without caving to Wall Street or the drug companies or the gun lobby. ...”
Brown also said divisiveness is not part of his lexicon.
“Populists are not racists,” he said. “Populists are not anti-Semitic.
“We do not appeal to some by pushing down others. We do not lie. We do not engage in hate speech. And we do not rip babies from their families at the border.”
Renacci entered the Senate race in January, after abandoning a gubernatorial quest, to take the place of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who also ran against Brown in 2012. Trump asked Renacci to make the switch.
Mandel, meanwhile, dropped his Senate bid, citing health issues involving his wife, Ilana Shafran Mandel. Term limits prevented the Beachwood Republican from seeking a third four-year term as state treasurer.
Otherwise, the GOP kept its grip on state politics.
DeWine becomes governor
Attorney General Richard Michael “Mike” DeWine, R-Yellow Springs, won the race for governor. In their second tangle, he beat Richard Cordray, D-Grove City, with 2,187,619 votes (50.66 percent). Cordray earned 2,005,627 votes (46.45 percent). It was DeWine who also beat Cordray for attorney general in 2010.
DeWine, one of the state’s most well-known politicians, beat Cordray to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. John Kasich. He was bolstered by strong support across rural Ohio as Cordray did best in the state’s urban Democratic strongholds.
DeWine’s win followed an 11th hour effort to embrace both Trump and Kasich, one of the party’s most vocal Trump detractors. The same strategy helped Republican Troy Balderson win a key U.S. House seat in an August special election, and again Nov. 6.
DeWine, 71, has had to walk a careful line on both the governor and the president, instead relying on his long record of public service as a former lieutenant governor, congressman and U.S. senator.
Cordray, 59, sought to join other Democrats who attempted to capitalize on citizen backlash against Trump.
He has spent the past year touting his record as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a position to which he was appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama. He also served a former state treasurer and attorney general.
Cordray’s campaign style, often criticized as bookish and boring, failed to ignite enough fire across the state to defeat a ticket of Republican incumbents — and the defeat had a coattails effect on the entire ticket.
Betty Sutton, a former state representative from Barberton, lost her lieutenant governor bid as Cordray’s running mate to Jon Husted, DeWine’s running mate. Husted, from the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington, has been secretary of state.
Ted Strickland was the last Democratic governor of Ohio, serving one term before term-limited Kasich beat him in 2011 for the first of his two terms.
LaRose wins secretary of state
Frank LaRose, R-Hudson defeated Kathleen Clyde, D-Garrettsville, a member of the Ohio House of Representatives serving the 76th District since 2011, for secretary of state. LaRose received 2,166,125 votes (50.9 percent); Clyde got 1,987,916 votes (46.7 percent); and Dustin R. Nanna, a Libertarian, picked up 99,808 votes (2.35 percent).
The 39-year-old LaRose will replace Husted.
LaRose has been in the state Senate since 2011 and before that served in the U.S. Army Special Forces.
He has said in recent interviews he wants to change how the state aggressively trims its voter rolls by targeting people who haven’t voted in a while.
But he also supports the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld Ohio’s methods of pruning voters in a case closely watched around the nation.
LaRose also has backed efforts to replace aging voting machines in Ohio.
A similar gap led to defeat for Zack Space, a Dover Democrat attempting to keep the state auditor’s office from Keith Faber, R-Celina, the state representative from House District 84. Faber got 2,110,073 votes (49.9 percent) and Space got 1,946,544 votes (46 percent) and Libertarian Robert C. Coogan got 169,767 (4 percent) of the auditor vote.
Faber, a 52-year-old lawyer, has advocated additional performance audits to boost government efficiency and cost savings.
Faber argued against using the role for political purposes after Space suggested the office could review how Ohio has been affected by trade deals and the saga of its largest online charter school, the now-defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.
During the campaign, both men faced questions about tax payment problems. Space’s campaign cited administrative errors for two tax penalties in his past. A bookkeeper took responsibility for tardy tax payments tied to Faber.
Faber succeeds two-term Republican Dave Yost, who defeated Solon resident and Park Synagogue congregant Steve Dettelbach to become attorney general.
Sprague captures treasurer’s race
To complete the virtual GOP sweep, State Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, defeated lawyer Rob Richardson, D-Cincinnati, for the post of treasurer of state.
The 45-year-old Sprague’s platform centered on financing drug addiction treatments and improving the transparency of state spending. He has served as city auditor and treasurer in his northwest Ohio hometown of Findlay.
During the campaign, Democratic candidate Richardson faced legal questions about his handling of money. Court records show the 39-year-old attorney’s then-wife accused him of hiding money in a private account before their divorce. Richardson’s campaign said the allegation was unsubstantiated.
The treasurer’s office managed more than $224 billion in fiscal year 2017, including an investment portfolio of more than $21.5 billion.
Issue 1 fails
Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that would have reduced drug possession felonies to misdemeanors and shifted focus to prison population reduction, funneling the resultant savings to treatment, failed, with 2,716,958 opposing votes (63.4 percent) and 1,586,347 votes in favor (36.6 percent).
Most judicial and law enforcement groups opposed the measure known as Issue 1. And it became a point of debate in the Ohio governor’s race, with DeWine opposed and Cordray supporting it.
Supporters argued Issue 1 would have saved tens of millions of dollars in prison costs, money that would be dedicated not only to drug treatment but to crime victim programs, as well.
Opponents balked at the prospect of basically decriminalizing possession of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid blamed for thousands of overdose deaths in Ohio.
Stewart, Donnelly head to top court
In Supreme Court races, Melody J. Stewart, a Democrat, beat Republican Mary DeGenaro with 1,803,277 votes (52.52 percent) to 1,630,977 votes (47.49 percent). Michael P. Donnelly, a Democrat, beat Republican Craig Baldwin with 2,116,136 votes (61 percent) to 1,352,859 votes (39 percent).
Carlo Wolff is a freelance writer from South Euclid.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.