Political Newcomer Jay Edwards Flipped the 94th House District Red Last Week

With a week to digest the results of the general election, I wanted to take some time to dig deeper into the numbers. Today I’m taking a look at how Blue Dog Democrats may soon be on the endangered species list in Southeast Ohio. It seems this once reliable voting bloc for Democrats in Appalachia has fallen by the wayside in recent election cycles.

Beginning last year, Appalachia received a lot of attention from statewide campaign organizations who made presence in the region a top priority. The region proved to be critical, delivering Ohio to Donald Trump. Sen. Rob Portman was also able to defeat native son of Appalachia, former Gov. Ted Strickland by a more than comfortable margin.

In the Ohio House, Republican Jay Edwards, a realtor from the Athens area, flipped the 94th House District red, beating Democrat Sarah Grace 58-42%. Edwards will succeed term-limited Democrat Rep. Debbie Phillips.

Here is a breakdown of the race by county:

Athens-100% (56 of 56) Precincts Reporting

Selection Votes % of Votes
Jay Edwards (R) 11,425 46.07%
Sarah H. Grace (D) 13,375 53.93%
Total Votes Cast 24,800

Meigs-100% (27 of 27) Precincts Reporting

Selection Votes % of Votes
Jay Edwards (R) 6,743 74.32%
Sarah H. Grace (D) 2,330 25.68%
Total Votes Cast 9,073

Vinton-100% (20 of 20) Precincts Reporting

Selection Votes % of Votes
Jay Edwards (R) 1,210 64.91%
Sarah H. Grace (D) 654 35.09%
Total Votes Cast 1,864

Washington-100% (50 of 50) Precincts Reporting

Selection Votes % of Votes
Jay Edwards (R) 9,271 67.14%
Sarah H. Grace (D) 4,538 32.86%
Total Votes Cast 13,809  

Historically, Athens County has favored Democrats by much larger margins due to the presence of the large public college town of Athens.  Looking back to the 2014 race, Rep. Phillips only won the contest by 394 votes. Granted there were only 29,126 casted compared to 49,546 this cycle. Where Rep. Phillips carried the day was in Athens where she took almost 4,000 more votes than the Republican challenger. 2012 is more comparable to 2016 as it was a Presidential election year. In that contest, Rep. Philips won that by a margin of nearly 11,000 votes in Athens County and 61% of the overall vote.

This year, the Democrat candidate Sarah Grace only took 53% of the vote in Athens County. She received no more than 35% of the vote in any other county. The fact that Jay Edwards was able to mitigate his loss in populous Athens County was the catalyst for his landslide victory.

Trump’s campaign messaging provides a blue print for Republicans to win in these regions in the years to come. Both Jay Edwards and Frank Hoagland (will cover in next post) capitalized on this message and won in a similar fashion.