Election 2014: What Happened, Why It Happened, and What's Next

As it was in 2010, Midterm Election Night was a big night for Republicans as the party swept all the statewide races and brought momentum into Gov. John Kasich’s second term. And defeat at most levels has left Democrats disappointed, and maybe angry and confused. Kasich delivered his acceptance speech about an hour after Ed FitzGerald made his concession speech – that happened less than an hour after the polls closed and the race was called for Kasich. But FitzGerald was not alone. Every Democrat on the statewide ballot lost – and all by double-digit margins.

A lot of the blame for the massive Democratic losses just two years after Ohio voted to re-elect President Barack Obama and US Senator Sherrod Brown was pinned on low voter turnout. But most of the Democratic candidates trailed significantly in fundraising compared with the Republicans. And there were serious questions raised after the controversies that hobbled FitzGerald about how he became the party’s top candidate on the ticket, and about the party’s leadership in general. Ohio Democratic Party chair Chris Redfern took a lot of those questions and criticism, and on election night blasted reporters for the way the campaign has been covered. He was asked again, by Jo Ingles, whether he would be stepping down as party chair. As he had said on this show last month, Redfern told her earlier in the evening that he was planning on staying put. But by the end of the evening, Redfern found out that he lost his seat in the Ohio House, to Tea Party backed candidate Steve Kraus, and he resigned his post with the Ohio Democratic Party.

The damage to Democrats reverberated through the Ohio House as well, as two other sitting Democrats in the House also lost their seats, and two open seats that had been occupied by Democrats went Republican. That makes the balance in the Ohio House 65-34 in favor of the Republicans. There were no flips among the 17 seats that were up in the Ohio Senate, where Republicans will continue to outnumber Democrats 2-1.
The other big story of the night was voter turnout, or the historic lack of it. Unofficial results show turnout will be at 40% of Ohio’s 7.75 million registered voters, the third lowest total in the last 15 gubernatorial elections. Mike Dawson, who runs the site ohioelecctionresults.com, talks about the stats.

Of the 15 races for governor since 1958, when Ohio switched to electing governors for four-year terms, Democrats have won five and Republicans have won ten. Tom Suddes, professor of journalism at Ohio University in Athens, a member of the Northeast Ohio Media Group editorial board and columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, talks about the results and some history behind them.

A big election week always comes toward its end with the Impact Ohio conference – it’s a huge gathering of state lawmakers, lobbyists, reporters, policy makers, activists and other political junkies who want to dig into what happened and how. This year’s conference featured panel discussions on the upcoming state budget, on Ohio as a leader in healthcare reform, on the future of the state’s energy industry, and comments from outgoing House Speaker Bill Batchelder and Senate President Keith Faber – along with a panel of Statehouse reporters. You can see that session from the Impact Ohio conference
here.

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