By JO INGLES & ANDY CHOW
Ohio Republicans swept the statewide office races in yesterday’s election — carried by a big victory from Mike DeWine who beat Democrat Rich Cordray for the governor’s office. While the Democrats did have some major wins, the Republicans said the night belonged to them.
“I will be excited to work with the DeWine/Husted administration,” says Frank LaRose, who won his race for Ohio Secretary of State.
LaRose was among the Republicans who, one-by-one, took the stage in downtown Columbus to claim victory in their statewide race.
LaRose says becoming the next Secretary of State brings a unique challenge.
“This is the one office that safeguards two things that are really fundamental to our way of life. Free markets and fair elections are among the most precious things we have,” he says.
LaRose was part of a five-office sweep of the statewide executive races. Representative Robert Sprague won the treasurer’s race, while fellow Representative Keith Faber will be Ohio’s next auditor.
Ohio’s current auditor, Dave Yost, who won the attorney general’s race, made what became a repeated statement of the night.
“Tonight belongs to the Republicans,” says Yost.
It all started at the top of the ticket with Mike DeWine winning the governor’s race against his Democratic opponent Rich Cordray. Since Donald Trump won the presidential race in 2016 there was a lot of talk about a possible momentum shift in the Democrats’ favor. And even the day before the election, several polls and analysts were projecting a narrow win for Cordray.
But as DeWine’s running mate, Jon Husted, put it:
“I guess Ohio is still a Republican state,” Husted says.
As DeWine took to the stage he delivered a message of unity, commending Cordray’s character, and calling on Republicans and Democrats to work together.
“Our challenges are not solvable just by one party, they’re not solvable by one person, they’re solvable by all of us pulling together, and working together and that is my commitment to each and every one of you,” DeWine says.
While DeWine calls for unity, the results of the election clearly show that Republicans have a stronghold in Ohio. Mark Weaver, a Republican strategist, says despite some statewide victories, including U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s re-election bid, it seems to be even harder than before to win as a Democrat in Ohio.
“Ohio is becoming redder all the time. We used to be the swing state, the purple state, the bellwether state, we saw in 2016 that the presidential race wasn’t close here and tonight it tells us that Ohio is firmly red,” Weaver says.
Dems Dealt Tough Loss
The blue wave that had been talked about nationally so much was barely a ripple in Ohio. While Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown was reelected, it was a tough loss for gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray.
“I believe that successful politics is not always defined by the outcome of an election. The reason we do this is because we want to improve people’s lives. And I believe the work that all of you have done throughout this campaign has changed the conversation in ways that will dramatically improve the lives of people all over Ohio,” says Cordray, who pointed to the conversation about health care, in particular and said because of it, there is agreement that Ohioans with pre-existing conditions should be protected.
And in his concession speech, Cordray called for unity, like his opponent Mike DeWine did.
“Tensions ran high during this campaign at times,” says Cordray. “But it was never personal for me. Mike has always been a dedicated public servant and I hope he will be a governor who looks out for all Ohioans as much as for the Ohioans who voted for me as for the Ohioans who voted for him.”
All of the Democrats who ran for top statewide offices lost to their Republican counterparts. Democrats did pick up five seats in the Ohio House, but also lost one there and one in the Senate.
But the Democrats did gain two seats on the Ohio Supreme Court, including the one held by Republican Justice Mary DeGenaro, who’d been replaced to fill Democrat Bill O’Neill’s place on the bench earlier this year.
Still, if this election was a referendum on President Trump, most voters landed on his side and decided to make Ohio red again.