With the general election behind us, the Ohio Legislature will now swing right into lame duck action. Ohio’s election results were as expected with Republicans easily sweeping all statewide seats and deepening their margins in both the House and Senate as they picked up seats in both chambers. In lame duck, we will see a flurry of bills passed before the end of the year. All bills that were introduced in this General Assembly will die at the end of the year. While Ohio still has $1B in federal ARPA funding available to spend, all eyes will be on how or if the funding will be spent in lame duck. This legislative update will focus on election results, what we expect to see in lame duck, and insights into the next General Assembly, including the State Operating Budget which will take place at the top of 2023.
Ohio Republicans continue to dominate in the state, easily winning statewide seats and continuing to increase their supermajority by picking up seats in the Ohio House and Senate. Republicans won the competitive legislative seats. Voting rights groups and Democrats objected to the third set of General Assembly maps adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission arguing maps gave an illusion of having the needed proportional split between Democrats and Republicans. Nearly half of those Democratic House and Senate seats were tossup districts (leaning 50-52% Democratic) while very few of the Republican seats were tossups. Republicans won a larger majority of the seats having a 51% or less advantage to one party or another.
Voter turnout was lower in Ohio with the unofficial turnout for this election at 51.05% compared to 55.72% in 2018. Turnout was also lower in urban counties. Cuyahoga County saw about a 46 % turnout; Franklin County had 47.22 %; Hamilton County had 50.03 %. The vote for governor is trending below 2018. There were about 4.4 million votes cast in the gubernatorial race in 2018. Unofficial results for 2022 put that total at just over 4 million. With fewer people voting for governor this year, the number of signatures required to get an issue on the ballot will be lower. Such issues coming up in the next four years could address abortion, marijuana use, or an increase to the minimum wage, and some groups may also try to referendum certain bills coming out of the General Assembly. A constitutional ballot issue currently requires 442,958 valid signatures to get on the ballot. That number will likely now be in the 400,000 to 420,000 range.
J.D. Vance will be Ohio’s next U.S. senator after defeating Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Niles). As we got closer to the election, Vance’s lead in the polls became higher. Ultimately the Vance/Ryan race was much closer than the other statewide races. With Vance earning 53.3% of the vote to Ryan’s 46.7%. Vance will replace U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who is retiring at the end of his term.
Ohio will be down one seat in Congress going into 2023 after the census showed a drop in population. However, Ohio will still have 5 Democrats represent the state after Democrats flipped one Congressional seat and delivered a win in a toss-up seat. There will be 5 Democrats and 10 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio. Notable wins include:
- Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman defeated U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) in the 1st Congressional District. Landsman defeated Chabot 52% to 47 %
- State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) won against Madison Gesiotto Gilbert in the 13th Congressional District. Sykes defeated Gesiotto Gilbert 52% to 47%.
- Ohio will also welcome Max Miller who defeated Matt Diemer in Ohio’s 7th Congressional District after the seat was left open by Cong. Anthony Gonzalez who decided not to run for reelection. Miller defeated Diemer 55% to 44%.
- In what was considered a close race, S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) beat J.R. Majewski in the 9th Congressional District. Kaptur defeated Majewski 56% to 43%. Kaptur is the longest serving Member in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- The Ohio Delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives will be:
- 1st District: Greg Landsman (D)
- 2nd District: Brad Wenstrup (R)
- 3rd District: Joyce Beatty (D)
- 4th District: Jim Jordan (R)
- 5th District: Bob Latta (R)
- 6th District: Bill Johnson (R)
- 7th District: Max Miller (R)
- 8th District: Warren Davidson (R)
- 9th District: Marcy Kaptur (D)
- 10th District: Mike Turner (R)
- 11th District: Shontel Brown (D)
- 12th District: Troy Balderson (R)
- 13th District: Emilia Sykes (D)
- 14th District: David Joyce (R)
- 15th District: Mike Carey (R)
Ohio Statewide Races
For the seventh time in eight election cycles, Republicans swept the six statewide constitutional offices with all six incumbents easily winning re-election. Gov. Mike DeWine and running mate Lt. Gov. Jon Husted defeated former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Cheryl Stephens taking 62%. The race was called by multiple news sources very shortly after polls closed. Additionally, the governor’s race had the largest win margin of all statewide races. Attorney General Dave Yost, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Treasurer Robert Sprague, and Auditor Keith Faber also earned around 60% of the vote.
Ohio Supreme Court
The Ohio Supreme Court will once again be led by Republicans with a 4-3 majority, but with the retirement of Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, who sided with the Democrats on the court in some high-profile cases, this is a significant change. For the first time, the D or R label was listed next to each candidate. Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy won 56% to 43% over Democrat Justice Jennifer Brunner to replace Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor. The winning margins were similar for incumbent Republican Justices Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer. Fischer won his re-election bid with 57% of the vote to Judge Terri Jamison's 42% while DeWine won with 56% of the vote to Judge Marilyn Zayas' 43%. Governor DeWine (R) will appoint someone to fill the vacancy created by Kennedy’s elevation to chief justice.
These results are expected to shift court rulings significantly. Retiring Republican Chief Justice O’Connor had formed a majority with the three Democratic justices in high-profile decisions, including one that rejected legislative and congressional maps four times for violating new state constitutional provisions prohibiting partisan gerrymandering and another that limited the use of bail. Justice Kennedy, the incoming chief justice, dissented from those decisions. While the most recent ruling instructed new maps must be drawn for the next election, this may now be avoided with the new make-up. In addition next year, the court will also likely hear challenges to the state’s six-week abortion ban.
Michele Reynolds defeated Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) 52% to 47%. Sen. Maharath flipped the seat in 2018 when she narrowly defeated former-Rep. Anne Gonzalez by only 705 votes. Adding Reynolds to the Senate’s super majority will take this caucus to a level not reached in more than 70 years. The last time the Senate had a 26-member super-majority was during the 99th General Assembly in 1951. Democrats will hold only 7 seats in Ohio Senate.
House Republicans will add to their super-majority in the 135th General Assembly with the count 68 Republicans to 31 Democrats.
- House Democrats may have lost two of their members of leadership. House Assistant Minority Leader Thomas West (D-Canton) lost his re-election bid to Jackson Township Trustee Jim Thomas in a redrawn district that Joe Biden barely edged Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential race. Meanwhile, the race between Assistant Minority Whip Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) and Ronald Beach in Franklin County remains too close to call with Beach up by less than 100 votes as of Monday morning.
- House Republicans picked up a seat in Trumbull County which has trended red in recent election cycles. Republican Nick Santucci, who works in workforce development, defeated Democrat Vincent Peterson, a former police officer and aide to U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles). The seat is currently held by the term-limited Rep. Michael O'Brien (D-Warren).
- Democrats picked up one seat in Hamilton County with Rachel Baker defeating Jenn Giroux for the seat currently held by Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati).
With lame duck starting this week, all eyes are on if the legislature will spend any of the remaining $1B in federal ARPA funds allocated to the state. There has been outcry from many human service organizations to spend the money as there are people and organizations still hurting who could use these funds. Legislators have cautioned organizations to remember ARPA funds are one time use funds that should fill a gap created by the pandemic, not for something that cannot be sustained without such funding.
Another serious concern for many legislators is nursing homes and hospitals who are being hit extremely hard at this time due to inflation. The rising cost of food and gas and the dire need for healthcare and direct care workers have put our healthcare system in a crisis. We expect to see legislation and/or funding to aid healthcare and healthcare workers in lame duck and likely in the next General Assembly.
We will see many bills passed during lame duck, but it seems top of mind to legislators are bills surrounding criminal justice, domestic violence, water quality, and elections. Hearings and session will be held starting this week but then take a break the week of Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, we can expect to see hearings and sessions every week until the legislature officially closes the 134th General Assembly. Legislators are hopeful this will happen before Christmas.
135th General Assembly
The 135th General Assembly will open the first week of January when all Members will be officially sworn into office. The House will elect a new Speaker and the Senate a new Minority Leader as Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) are both term-limited and will not return in 2023. In the most recent campaign finance filings, Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) raised the most and has the most on hand among House Republicans who have expressed an interest in succeeding Speaker Cupp. Reps. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova), Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester), and Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) have also expressed interest in the Speaker role. It is likely President Stephen Huffman (R-Lima) and House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) will remain in their leadership positions.
Following the assignment of committees, likely to take place by late January-early February, the FY24-FY25 State Operating Budget will be the first order of business for the legislature. Governor DeWine will introduce his budget in mid-February and hearings will start in the House shortly after. The budget will make its way through the House and Senate over the first 6 months of 2023 and needs to be signed into law by June 30th to take effect on July 1st, the first day of FY24. If you are interested in pursuing a state budget earmark, please let us know as soon as possible.