An overlooked but very consequential series of races, the battle for seats in Ohio's General Assembly has serious repercussions for everything from local municipal budgets to education funding to gun control efforts.
While Republicans retained supermajorities in both the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate (the picked up one seat in the latter), Democrats did make some inroads. Prior to the election, the GOP held 66 seats in the state House of Representatives. Democrats could cut that number down to as low as 60, pending the outcome of a potential recount between Hamilton County State Rep. Jonathan Dever, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent Jessica Miranda. Just 303 votes separate the two.
That said, there were few surprises in local Ohio General Assembly districts, which are mostly safely Democrat or Republican. Here’s a rundown of who won.
Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas, a Democrat, easily overcame a challenge from Republican Tom Chandler in Ohio's safely-liberal 9th Senate District. Thomas served eight years on Cincinnati City Council, a quarter century as a Cincinnati Police officer and five years as the executive director of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission. He’s been a strong supporter of tighter gun laws in the state, including introducing legislation supporting universal background checks and a statewide registry for firearms. Thomas has also been active in issues around police-community relations and other progressive causes.
Chandler spent four decades working for UC Health and is now retired. He ran on looser restrictions for guns than Thomas and says better mental health services are the key to reducing gun violence. He self-describes as a fiscal conservative.
Thomas took home 76 percent of the vote in the race.
Ohio’s 27th State House District will continue to be represented by Republican Tom Brinkman Jr., a Mount Lookout resident, though Brinkman won by a narrower margin than Thomas with 54 percent of the vote. Brinkman is staunchly conservative and has taken a number of far-right stances over the years, including a recent bill that would require teachers to report students who might be transgender to their parents. Democrat Christine Fisher, a finance manager at Procter & Gamble, was challenging Brinkman for his district, which includes a number of conservative areas east of Cincinnati. Fisher wanted to reform the way the state funds education, protect reproductive rights for women and increase funding to local governments given by the state.
In Ohio’s 29th District, Republican incumbent Louis Blessing, III, won a decisive victory over Democrat challenger Carrie Davis. Blessing, a Colerain Township resident and engineer by trade, first gained his seat in 2012. He touted tax cuts he voted for in the state House as well as his pro-life and pro-Second Amendment stances. Davis, a Democrat, is the founder and director of a child advocacy nonprofit. She ran on a platform advocating for greater transparency in the State House, reforms to Ohio’s ethics rules and enforcement for lawmakers and for tax reforms that favor working-class families. Blessing grabbed 65 percent of the vote.
In Ohio’s 30th State House District, Democrat Clayton Adams, a high school educator, posed a hard-working, but long-shot challenge to longtime Republican lawmaker State Rep. Bill Seitz, who switched over to the House after he was term-limited out of the State Senate. Seitz secured another term with roughly 70 percent of the vote.
As a teacher, Adams focused on educational issues, including opposition to the state’s controversial charter schools. He also promoted increasing regulations on firearms as a means of reducing gun violence, including universal background checks and mandatory licensing and training for gun owners.
Seitz, a self-described “pragmatic conservative,” has been under some scrutiny of late for comments he made about a fellow female Republican lawmaker during a going-away party for a legislative staffer. Seitz says his comments were meant in jest, and he has since apologized.
In Ohio’s 31st House District, Democrat incumbent Brigid Kelly, a former union communications director, faced no challengers.
In the state’s 32nd House District, Democrat Catherine Ingram, the incumbent, won handily over Republican Marilyn Tunnat, a retired teacher. Ingram received almost 79 percent of the vote.
In Ohio’s 33rd House District, Democrat Sedrick Denson bested Republican Judith Boyce to take over State Rep. Alicia Reece’s seat as she leaves due to term limits. Denson ran on restoring state money for local government funds, which state lawmakers have cut by $1.2 billion since 2010. He also supports universal background checks for gun ownership. He received 75 percent of the vote in the liberal-leaning Cincinnati district.
Boyce, a retired city clerk and conservative, wanted to lower taxes and ran on opposition to Issue 1, the ballot initiative creating sentencing reform for drug possession.