The Ohio Problem

As goes Ohio, so goes the nation.

That is where the problem begins for people trying to run for office in Ohio.  I have worked as a campaign consultant for nearly ten years to a number of candidates and causes in Ohio, I have always encountered the same problems. The Ohio Problem (as I have decided to call it) consists of the state gaining outside media influence and money every presidential election due to its perceived electoral importance.  This extra attention every four years causes the most talented, and professional campaign experts to migrate towards the high profile state and federal races.  This leaves mostly inexperienced campaign workers and volunteers to work on the local races. The existence of the Ohio Problem causes political amateurism and laughable local governance for a state that seems to always be front and center during a presidential election year.

What makes Ohio so attractive to the national political establishment?  It begins with basic demographics.  Ohio ranks as the seventh most populous state, and it is overwhelmingly white (over 82%). The median income in Ohio sits below the national average.  The unemployment rate sits slightly above the national rate.  This all shows that the residents of Ohio are usually the target of national political platform messaging.  There is no major demographic swing to alienate the residents on national politics.  The voters of Ohio turn out in record numbers for the presidential election, and their turnout in other years is usually a record low.

Why do Ohioans care so little for the local elections?  This begins with the local political parties.  Many of the same people have been in charge of their local county parties for almost a decade.  In Hamilton County (Cincinnati), the local democratic party has engaged in such amateurism as in endorsing ten candidates for a nine member city council, having their endorsed congressional candidate lose the primary to an unknown person who was not running an active campaign, and running candidates over and over again who have no ability to win the race.  These actions would get most party bosses tossed after one election cycle (I have seen this happen in Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois). These party leaders keep their jobs in spite of their failures. The response to the parties failures is to remind critics that Obama carried the county the last two elections. There is no interest or fidelity to the local governance of the people they are supposed to serve.  The strong republican area of Butler County, where the Speaker of the House John Boehner calls home, does not fare much better.  The local Democratic party has on occasion attempted to try new things and bring in new people. In 2012 there were some new candidates with broader appeal to the strong conservative voters of the area.  Before the end of May the party had lost any momentum because candidates were not fundraising, people in the party were looking for signs and t-shirts(again this was in May, nowhere near election time), and most of the resources were being hoarded by a small group of candidates. During strategy meetings the top priorities were knocking on doors, and getting people to vote for President Obama and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown (both Obama and Brown received around 37% of the vote).  This showed a lack of interest in the local races in service to the national party.

Once the 2012 election had passed, many of the campaign consultants had moved on to other jobs.  A large percentage leave the political campaign world.  The ones left over are usually underpaid (if they get paid at all) and lose any loyalty towards the local party bosses.  While all campaign workers divest themselves from the system, all the county party leaders stay put to repeat the same mistakes in the next election cycle.  The next mistake turned out to be the colossal failure of the Ohio Democratic party during the 2014 state elections. Little known, and barely vetted, Cuyahoga County executive Ed Fitzgerald was tapped as the Democratic nominee for governor. Fitzgerald was going against incumbent Republican Governor John Kasich.  The poll numbers for Governor Kasich were trending below 50%.  The state Democratic Party brought in out of state consultants to run Fitzgerald's campaign.  There seemed to be no local campaign experts, because none were groomed during the 2012 elections.  By the end of August 2014, Fitzgerald's campaign imploded (go see for yourself,  The entire state ticket went down with Fitzgerald's failed candidacy.   Since the local parties went all in with the Fitzgerald campaign, their backyard races all suffered.  Once the dust settled on the disaster of the 2014 campaign, the head of the state Democratic party stepped down, and that was the only high profile resignation.  The local party leaders were once again in charge of the next election cycle.  The 2016 election looks to be run the exact same way, all the resources moving to secure the state for the presidential candidate at the expense of local officials. 

Ohio has twice gone to President Obama, yet the state is overwhelmingly controlled by the Republican party.  Every day the citizens of Ohio watch women's health freedom get stripped away, LGBT rights sit well behind the rest of the nation, and local tax dollars being sent to the state capital so the richest can get more tax breaks.  The Ohio Problem is what causes residents below the median national income and above the national unemployment rate to .vote against their own interests.

Ohio is not alone in this issue.  The same could be said about Pennsylvania, Florida, and to a lesser extent Michigan.

The Ohio Problem must be solved.

RD Kulik

Head Editor