August 4, 2021 – Sabato Crystal Ball
|Dear readers: This is the latest edition of the Crystal ball“Notes on the State of Politics,” featuring brief updates on elections and politics.
– The editors
OH-11 and OH-15: Victories for Clinton and Trump?
In two special elections last night, Ohio voters in two congressional districts went to the polls to cast their votes in the primaries. Although there were four primaries overall, the results in the two most-viewed contests were, to one degree or another, unexpected.
On the Cleveland-area OH-11, County Councilwoman Shontel Brown upset former state senator Nina Turner in the Democratic primary. Turner, who had superior name recognition, built a fundraising advantage and was seen as a clear, but not prohibitive, favorite for much of the campaign. Although Turner represented part of the area in the legislature from 2008 to 2014, she was best known for her work in the presidential campaigns of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Brown, who was initially elected to the Cuyahoga Council in 2014, positioned herself as a mainstream Democrat.
As the campaign wound down, Democratic heavyweights flocked to the district, as the race, rightly or wrongly, turned into new litigation from their party’s 2016 presidential primary. In the past week, Sanders was stumped by Turner while House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D, SC-6), a prominent figure in the Congressional Black Caucus, made a visit on behalf of Brown: Hillary Clinton supported Brown previously.
Despite Turner’s apparent advantages, Brown prevailed by a 50% -45% margin (there were nearly a dozen minor candidates splitting the rest). While Turner’s association with Sanders undoubtedly seemed to help raise his profile, his association with the Vermont senator ultimately may not have been very valuable on OH-11: In the 2016 primaries, he was Clinton’s best district in the state, which gave him a nearly 40-point lead over Sanders.
About 90% of OH-11’s votes come from Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County, where Brown did slightly better than his district-wide presentation, but there were some interesting local patterns. Brown performed better in most suburban communities and kept Turner on the narrow side in Cleveland proper – Brown was especially strong in Beachwood, which has a high Jewish level. population.
Although it does not represent much of the district, Turner narrowly carried the OH-11 portion of Summit County. An interactive Map One of our friends at RRH Elections offers a detailed breakdown: Brown won many of the majority white areas, while Turner ran better in the predominantly black precincts that make up Akron proper.
Given the working-class nature of the Akron area, perhaps Brown’s relative restraint played best with white voters. A few months ago, a similar dynamic was at play in Louisiana’s 2nd Ward: In an April special election, now Rep. Troy Carter (D, LA-2), who was tagged with the “establishment” tag, defeated State Senator Karen Carter Peterson in a second round of the game. Peterson’s stance as an “unapologetic progressive” sold well in New Orleans’ gentrified white neighborhoods, but Carter racked up healthy majorities in the pockets of the district’s white and non-white working class.
Both the LA-2 outcome and the New York City Democratic mayoral primaries, where Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was seen as a moderate option, represent, to one degree or another, disappointments for the progressive. Now, with a loss in Ohio, progressives find themselves looking for a high-profile victory.
In another part of Ohio, another person who needed a victory last night, and got it, was former President Donald Trump.
In June, Trump got into the crowded OH-15 primaries and backed lobbyist Mike Carey. Not surprisingly, in a field that featured multiple state legislators, Carey positioned himself as the “conservative outsider,” a profile that seems to be increasingly relevant in the Republican primaries.
In an 11-lane field, Carey won with a plurality of 37%. State Rep. Jeff LaRe, who had the backing of former Rep. Steve Stivers (R, OH-15), finished next, with just over 13%. Impressively, Carey finished first in 11 of the 12 counties that make up OH-15 – State Senator Bob Peterson represents Fayette County in the legislature and won it last night.
Carey’s landslide primary victory is a relief to Trump, who was injured last week in a special election in Texas. Although now Rep. Jake Ellzey is by no means anti-Trump, he defeated the former president’s election, Susan Wright (the widow of the man who will replace Ellzey), in a low turnout runoff within the party.
With the prospect of another impending defeat, Trump’s Make America Great Again Action PAC increased its spending on Carey’s behalf last week in the immediate aftermath of Wright’s loss. While the power of Trump’s backing will be tested in the next election cycle, for now, the former president’s allies can claim, with some authority, that the TX-6 result was a fluke.
In the OH-15 Democratic primary, State Representative Allison Russo easily received the nomination, garnering about 85% of the vote. Since 2018, Russo has represented part of the Columbus metropolitan area in the legislature.
With the primaries resolved, the general election for both Ohio districts will be on November 2. In OH-11, which gave President Biden 80% last year, the general election is close to a formality: Brown is almost certain to be his next congressman. . While the Crystal ball sees OH-15 as a more competitive race, still probably a Republican contest. While the lower turnout that often characterizes special elections sometimes leads to noisy results, the OH-15 supported Trump in double digits last fall, making Republicans the favorites to celebrate.