This month in public policy

CreativeOhio's monthly guide to Ohio's political landscape and its impact on arts and culture

May 28, 2024

Special Session & June Is Key for General Assembly

After today’s special session (Tuesday, May 28), the General Assembly has two remaining regular voting sessions scheduled for the first half of the year – the first on June 12 and the second on June 26. After which, barring unforeseen circumstances, we expect the legislature to break until after the General Election in November.

CAPITAL BILL AND ONE-TIME STRATEGIC COMMUNITY INVESTMENT FUND May Pass in June

The legislature continues to make progress on the Capital Bill and One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund (OTSCIF). Public comments from the Senate President and Speaker of the House indicate that the legislature hopes to pass a spending bill during one of their last two session days in June.

(See January 29 update for more information on OTSCIF.)

Legislature at a standstill: President Biden May Not be on the Ballot in Ohio

As it currently stands, President Biden will not be on the ballot in Ohio for the General Election due to an obscure law dealing with the date of the Democratic National Convention. The legislature has thus far been unable to fix the issue for a variety of reasons. Governor DeWine has called a special session of the legislature to address the issue for today. (Tuesday, May 28.)

Action items

  • Reach out to Sarah Sisser and CreativeOhio if you would like us to meet with your community partners and elected officials about arts advocacy.

Governor Dewine Focuses on Improving Educational Outcomes in State of the State

On April 10th, Governor Mike DeWine delivered the State of the State address to a joint Session of the General Assembly. The speech focused primarily on his administration’s initiatives dealing with children. Specifically, he discussed programs and policies that aim to improve educational outcomes as well as the mental and physical health of Ohio’s infants and school children.

General Assembly Back on Regular Schedule

The General Assembly has resumed its traditional Session schedule following the March 19th primary election. Session dates have been scheduled through June, and we expect regular committee meetings and legislative activity to take place over the next couple of months until the legislature adjourns for the summer.

Progress on the Capital Bill and One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund

The legislature continues to make progress on the Capital Bill and One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund (OTSCIF). As the legislative deadlines to submit projects have now passed, we expect the House and Senate to soon begin internal deliberations. Although it is not guaranteed, the legislature traditionally agrees on a bill that allocates funding before breaking for the summer.

(See January 29 update for more information on OTSCIF.)

OVERVIEW

Ohio’s March 19th Primary Election was consequential, both at the federal and state level. While the candidates for President were a foregone conclusion, Ohio had a competitive Republican U.S. Senate primary, two open Congressional primaries in heavy Republican districts, many competitive Ohio House primaries, and a handful of primary races in the Ohio Senate. The Ohio legislative races were particularly important in deciding the future direction of a General Assembly that has struggled to pass legislation this session. Below is an analysis of the unofficial election results including a list of relevant races.

REPUBLICAN NOMINATION FOR U.S. SENATE

Three Republicans ran for their party’s nomination to the U.S. Senate. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, State Senator Matt Dolan, and businessman Bernie Moreno engaged in spirited campaigns to decide who would get the nod to challenge incumbent Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown. Former President Trump endorsed Moreno early in the race and came to Ohio to campaign for him during the primary’s closing days. A late public poll showed a tight race with two weeks until election day; all three candidates were within 10 points of each other and 23% of voters were still undecided.

Ultimately, Moreno won the competition earning 51% of the vote, followed by Dolan with 33%, and LaRose who earned 17%. Despite polls indicating a tight race, Moreno carried all 88 counties in Ohio. From a regional perspective, Moreno overperformed in SW and NE Ohio while also winning handily in Ohio’s three largest metro counties – Franklin, Cuyahoga, and Hamilton.

The election saw 1,096,312 ballots cast, slightly more than the 2022 Senate primary which attracted 1,094,480 Republican voters. Moreno’s win is in large part credited to the endorsement of former President Trump, demonstrating his outsized influence on Ohio’s Republican electorate.

U.S. House primaries

OH-2: In Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District, which is reliably red and encompasses a 16-county region in southern Ohio, a crowded primary field competed to replace retiring Congressman Brad Wenstrup. In December, 11 candidates filed to run for the seat including State Senators Shane Wilkin and Niraj Antani, and businessmen David Taylor, Tim O’Hara, and Larry Kidd. Due to the crowded field, large district, and the lack of endorsements, no clear favorite emerged throughout the campaign. Ultimately, David Taylor won the nomination earning 25% of the vote.

OH-6: In Ohio’s 6th Congressional District, three Republicans fought for their party’s nomination to replace Congressmen Bill Johnson who stepped down from his seat late last year. The district, which is also reliably red, includes Youngstown and covers the easternmost part of the state stretching from Mahoning to Washington County. State Senator Michael Rulli, State Representative Reggie Stoltzfus, and East Palestine Resident Dr. Rick Tsai all campaigned for the Republican nomination. Rulli won, earning 50% of the vote. He will face off against Michael Kripchak, the Democratic nominee, in November’s general election.

OH-9: In Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, former State Representative Craig Riedel, State Representative Derek Merrin, and former Napolean Mayor Steve Lankenau fought for the Republican nomination afterformer challenger JR Majewski decided to exit the race. The seat, which has been occupied by Democrat Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur since 1983, was redrawn during the 2022 reapportionment process and is now thought by some to be competitive. The race attracted the attention of U.S. Speaker Mike Johnson and former President Trump, both of whom endorsed Merrin. Ultimately, Merrin won the nomination with 52% of the vote. He will attempt to unseat Congresswoman Kaptur in November.

OH-10: In Ohio’s 10th Congressional District, four candidates competed in the Democratic primary for the opportunity to challenge Republican Congressman Mike Turner. The Dayton area district covers Montgomery, Greene, and parts of Clark County. Ultimately, Amy Cox, the former public-school teacher and agricultural scientist prevailed, earning 62% of the vote; she now faces an uphill battle as she looks to flip the seat in November.

OH-15: In Ohio’s 15th Congressional District, State Representative Adam Miller and Zerqa Abid, a small business owner, sought the Democratic nomination. The district, which includes parts of Columbus and western Ohio, leans red. Miller won the competition earning 62% of the vote. He will look to upset incumbent Republican Mike Carey in the general election.

Ohio House Primaries

In the Ohio House, 18 incumbent Republicans and 4 incumbent Democrats drew primary challengers. Last year, a portion of the Republican caucus, along with the entire Democrat caucus, voted to elect Jason Stephens as Speaker of the House over the presumptive nominee Derek Merrin. The move drew criticism from the remaining members of the Republican supermajority and attracted many well-financed candidates who emerged to challenge Stephens’ supporters. The campaigns were extremely negative with attacks launched from both sides. As Speaker Stephens is expected to be challenged for the gavel when the new General Assembly convenes in January 2025, these primaries will have a large impact on the impending leadership battle and future direction of the Ohio House. On the Democratic side, the small number of primaries are likely to have a de minimis impact on the character of the caucus.

In addition to the incumbent primaries, there were also several open seats due to term limits and vacancies that will result in new members. These seats will also play into the leadership struggle and factor into the politics in Columbus through January and potentially beyond.

On the House Republican side, of the 18 incumbents that were challenged for their seats, 12 voted for Speaker Stephens last January. Of those 12, four were defeated. In the 47th House District, incumbent Representative Sara Carruthers lost her Butler County seat to Diane Mullins, the Calvary Church pastor. In the 51st House District, Jodi Salvo defeated incumbent Representative Brett Hillyer. In the 72nd House District, incumbent Representative Gail Pavliga was defeated by challenger Heidi Workman for the Portage County seat. Lastly, in the 83rd House District, which covers Hancock, Hardin, and parts of Logan County, Ty Mathews defeated incumbent Representative Jon Cross.

In the Republican open primaries, there were few surprises. However, in the 17th House District where three candidates fought for the Republican nomination to replace term-limited Representative Tom Patton, Mike Dovilla, the former State Representative, ultimately won the nomination by just 350 votes.

On the Democratic side, one incumbent lost their party’s nomination. In the 21st House District, first-term Representative Elliot Forhan lost to primary challenger Eric Synenberg, the Beachwood City Councilman. In a competitive Democratic open primary, Christine Cockley prevailed over a crowded field to win the Democratic nomination for the 6th House District. Additionally, in the 34th House District, Derrick Hall defeated two challengers to earn the Democratic nomination.

Ohio Senate Primaries

Half of the 33 Ohio State Senators were up for re-election, but few had competitive primaries. Two incumbent Republicans were challenged, along with one primary in an open seat. The Democrat caucus only saw one competitive primary in the 6th Senate District which is now more competitive due to the redistricting process last year.

In the 4th Senate District, incumbent Senator George Lang faced off against former State Representative Candice Keller and Mark Morgan, a Middletown resident. Lang won the nomination handily, earning 60% of the vote.

In Northeast Ohio’s 32nd Senate District, incumbent Senator Sandra O’Brien drew a primary challenge from current State Representative Mike Loychik. Ultimately, O’Brien won, earning 64% of the vote.

In Ohio’s 10th Senate District, a heavily Republican area, former State Representative Kyle Koehler took on Air Force Veteran Carolyn Destefani to replace term-limited Dayton-area Republican Senator Bob Hackett. Koehler won the nomination with 64% of the vote and will compete against Democrat Daniel McGregor in November’s general election.

Lastly, in the 6th Senate District, which due to redistricting has a higher democratic index, State Representative Willis Blackshear, Kettering City Councilwomen Jyl Hall, and Dayton Public Schools Board Member Jocelyn Rhynard all competed for the Democratic nomination. Blackshear won the nomination with 46% of the vote and will take on Republican Charlotte McGuire in November’s general election.

House Bill 2

On February 7, 2024 the Ohio House of Representatives passed HB2 by a vote of 75-19. The bill intends to allocate more than $2 billion in state money, including $350 million of the $700 million One Time Strategic Community Investment Fund to support transformational projects around the state. View the bill.

senate president has concerns

As the House was deliberating HB2 in Session, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-12) issued a press release on the pending legislation. He expressed concern over the House’s decision to move forward with passing this spending bill prior to any official negotiations with the Senate. As such, the timeline and fate of HB2 remain unclear. The Senate will continue to follow its previously announced timeline for this year’s capital budget and for the One Time Strategic Community Investment Fund.

OHIO’S UPCOMING PRIMARY ELECTION: MARCH 19, 2024

Ohio will hold its primary election next month. Candidates will be nominated for all 99 seats in the Ohio House and half of the 33 seats in the Ohio Senate. Focus remains on House incumbents who look to defend their seats against primary challengers, along with several ‘open seats’ currently held by term-limited legislators. Additionally, in a hotly contested election, Republicans will vote to nominate a U.S. Senate candidate to challenge Senator Sherrod Brown in November. Businessman Bernie Moreno, State Senator Matt Dolan, and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose are all vying for the Republican nomination.

House Bill 68

The Ohio Legislature returned in January to begin year two of the 135th General Assembly. Despite limited activity thus far, the House and the Senate voted to override Governor DeWine’s veto of H.B. 68, known as the ‘Saving Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act’ and the ‘Save Women’s Sports Act.’ The vote occurred mainly along party lines, with a majority of Republicans voting to override the veto.

Ohio Primary Election

On March 19, 2024, Ohioans will take to the polls to vote in the Primary Election. The 99 members of the Ohio House and half of the Ohio Senate are up for re-election. All eyes will be on the group of incumbents looking to defend their seats against primary challengers, along with competitive ‘open seats’ left by term-limited members of the House and Senate.

Strategic Community Investment Fund

Throughout the spring, the legislature will turn its focus on the capital budget and the One-time Strategic Community Investment Fund. This will result in hundreds of millions of dollars being distributed to capital investment projects around the state. The House has already begun work on this effort, while the Senate is likely to follow suit following the March election.

What is the one-time Strategic Community Investment Fund?

In addition to the traditional capital biennium budget, the legislature has another $700M to distribute with the One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund. The fund was created during the state budget process with a $700M transfer from the General Revenue Fund. While the legislation does not specifically outline the allowable uses for this fund, the intent is to fund transformational one-time investments in communities throughout the state.