Battle Ground Ohio: 2016 General Assembly Races by the Numbers

With the signing of Ohio’s State Operating Budget on Tuesday, General Assembly members will be returning to their respective districts to engage in re-election efforts for the 2016 campaign cycle. As national presidential campaigns and operatives begin to descend upon the state, there will be a heightened sense of urgency for these “down ticket” races to build both name recognition and  grassroots networks in 2015 as to not be drowned out by the political frenzy that will take undoubtedly place beginning in 2016.

Republicans are coming off a banner year in 2014 with supermajorities in both chambers. In just over four years’ time, House Republicans have risen from the minority to a 65 member record majority. In his first year leading the majority caucus, Speaker Cliff Rosenberger is charged with continuing upon the House’s 2014 success and retaining all 65 seats come 2016.

Fresh off of the 30 year anniversary of majority in the upper chamber, Senate Republicans will also play defense with their supermajority. With five Republican members departing due to term-limits, three of which are districts located in major metropolitan areas, Senate President Keith Faber will lean heavily on the caucus’ fundraising advantages to win both the air and ground wars.

This week we will take a look at the open seats in the 99 seat Ohio House of Representatives that will be vacated due to term-limits following the conclusion of the 131st General Assembly and discuss candidates that have begun to emerge for these seats.

Ohio House of Representatives                                                                                                         Balance of Power: 65 Republican, 34 Democrat                                                                                     Members Term Limited: 15 (11 Republican, 4 Democrat)

Republican Open Seats
1           Ron Amstutz
16         Nan Baker
23         Cheryl Grossman
47         Barb Sears
53         Tim Derickson
57         Terry Boose
62         Ron Maag
68         Margaret Ann Ruhl
70         Dave Hall
74         Bob Hackett
87         Jeff McClain

HD 16-With Nan Baker’s departure, Cuyahoga County Councilman David Greenspan has emerged as the early Republican nominee. Mr. Greenspan comes into this race with the advantage of representing the same geographic district of the 16th House District while sitting on county council. With Emily Hagan’s departure from the race to challenge for the open senate seat, political newcomer Tommy Greene has emerged as the democratic candidate. Mr. Greene, no stranger to campaign politics has previously worked on Senator Sherrod Brown’s senate campaign as well as on Ed Fitzgerald’s gubernatorial fundraising team. The 16th District reads +2 Republican on the partisan index. Look for this advantage to narrow even further in a hotly contested presidential year.

HD 87-Jeff McClain’s departure from the Ohio House will make way for a race that will likely be decided during the Republican primary.   The 16th District carries a +9 Republican partisan index and encompasses Crawford, Marion, Morrow, Seneca, and Wyandot counties. So far, Wesley Goodman of Cardington and Morrow County Commissioner Tom Whiston have emerged as candidates for the seat. Another political newcomer, Mr. Goodman has previously served as a staffer in Washington D.C to then U.S Senator Mike Dewine and for Congressman Jim Jordan. Commissioner Whiston is no stranger to the political arena as he served 11 years as Mt. Gilead mayor prior to his current elected position. Commissioner Whiston also ran in the ’08 primary in what was then the 68th District, ultimately losing to Representative Margaret Ann Ruhl 53.71 % – 46.29 %. This primary race will certainly be one to closely monitor as both camps have deep grassroots networks and political ties at their disposal.

Democrat Open Seats
31       Denise Driehaus
49       Stephen Slesnick
59       Ron Gerberry
94       Debbie Phillips

In addition to the retention of 30 incumbent seats, House Democrats will be tasked with recruiting candidates to compete in four democrat held seats that will become open in ’16. The magic number required to take majority control of the chamber is currently at 16 additional seats.

HD 31- Brigid Kelly of Norwood is a former city council member and current union organizer for UFCW Local 75. She looks to replace Rep. Denise Driehaus in this seat that trends +19 Democrat on the Partisan Index

I will be sure to keep you updated on new candidates as the names become available. Next week I will profile some of the targeted races for incumbent members in the General Assembly that stand re-election. In the meantime, if you have any further questions you can contact me at rthompson@ohiochamber.com or on twitter @probizpolitics.

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