Looking Ahead to 2016: Ohio Senate with 7 Open Seats

We may not be very far into 2015, but there is no question the 2016 election cycle has begun. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the presidential race and candidates for other offices are beginning to announce their intentions. Just last week, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld became the first Democrat to declare his intent to challenge U.S. Senator Rob Portman.

In the General Assembly, term limits guarantee a certain number of seats will be open every cycle. Those are the races that are typically the most volatile and attract the most resources. In this post, I want to take a look at the open seats in the Ohio Senate next year. Next week, I’ll take a look at the Ohio House.

In 2014, the Senate had only three open seats created by term limits. The fourth came open when former Sen. Nina Turner chose to run for Secretary of State. In 2016, there will be seven open seats created by term limits. Five of them are currently held by Republicans and two by Democrats. Remember that only half the Senate seats are up in each election cycle. This cycle, it’s the even numbered districts.

The chart below lists the seven open seats with the current term-limited senator, the House members from the district, and the Partisan Voter Index (PVI). The House members are important because they tend to be the most likely replacements. Of the four open seats last year, two were filled by representatives moving directly from the House (Hottinger and Williams) and one was filled by a former representative (Yuko). The PVI shows the partisan nature of the district.

District Current Senator House Members (with party ID) Partisan Voter Index
SD 8 Bill Seitz Blessing (R), Dever (R), Terhar (R) +11 Republican
SD 10 Chris Widener Hackett (R), Koehler (R), Perales (R) +7 Republican
SD 12 Keith Faber Buchy (R), Cupp (R), Vitale (R) +16 Republican
SD 16 Jim Hughes Duffey (R), Grossman (R), Kunze (R) +2 Republican
SD 24 Tom Patton Anielski (R), Baker (R), Dovilla (R) +2 Republican
SD 28 Tom Sawyer DeVitis (R), Johnson (D), Sykes (D) +14 Democrat
SD 32 Capri Cafaro M. O’Brien (D), S. O’Brien (D), Patterson (D) +11 Democrat

As you can see, SD 16 in Franklin County and SD 24 in Cuyahoga County should be very competitive. They lean slightly Republican, but the Democratic presidential candidate will put an emphasis on turning out the vote in those areas, helping the Democratic candidates down ballot. It will probably take a good political climate and ample resources for Democrats to bring SD 10 into play, and the other four will obviously be decided in the primary barring something catastrophic.

As far as who is running where, it’s still early to tell, but there is always room for speculation! Reps. Bob Hackett, Cheryl Grossman, and Nan Baker are term-limited in 2016, so it would not be surprising to see them run for the Senate in their respective districts. It has been rumored that two Republican representatives that were term-limited last year, John Adams and Matt Huffman, are interested in running to replace Senate President Keith Faber in SD 12. That would definitely make for an eventful primary. Several third term representatives who will be term-limited in 2018 could also run, such as Reps. Marlene Anielski, Mike Dovilla, Mike Duffey, and Sean O’Brien. We should also be on the lookout for former members of the General Assembly like Matt Dolan or Vernon Sykes, who might look to come back to Columbus. Then there are those that have not served in the General Assembly, like Democrat David Donofrio, who has already declared his candidacy in SD 16.

Looking at the landscape early also provides some insight as far as the big picture. Democrats have to pick up seven seats to take a majority. While there are a couple opportunities, it appears there will not be enough to flip control of the chamber. As a result, the GOP is likely to maintain its hold on the Senate, which goes all the way back to 1985.

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