There are currently two vacancies in Ohio’s House of Representatives delegation. The 11th came open after Marcia Fudge was confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. In the 15th, Steve Stivers stepped down to become the CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
The 11th is a D+30 seat based around Cleveland and Akron, while the 15th, which includes parts of Columbus and surrounding areas, is R+9, so any turnover during the November 2nd general election is unlikely. The real competitive contests will instead be the August 3rd primaries.
OH-11: The Hillary-Bernie Forever War
As soon as it was clear a special election was going to take place in Ohio’s 11th Congressional district, Nina Turner eagerly threw her hat into the ring.
Turner served in the State Senate from 2008 to 2014 and sat on the Cleveland City Council from 2006 to 2008. Her big break, however, occurred in November 2015, when she switched her support in the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders.
At a time when the Sanders campaign was trying to shake the ‘Bernie Bro’ image of a movement dominated by white guys, Turner was a Black female lifeline. For the next five years, Turner was one of the Senator’s most prominent surrogates and a part of his exclusive inner circle.
Now the Sanders wing is fully behind Turner as she pursues this prime opportunity for a deep blue Congressional seat. That doesn’t mean she’s cleared the field, as her competitors include fellow former Ohio legislators Rep. John Barnes, Sen. Jeff Johnson and Sen. Shirley Smith.
Her most formidable opponent, though, is set to be Cuyahoga Councilwoman and County Democratic Chair Shontel Brown. An internal poll done by the Turner campaign in May found Brown in second place, while leftist journalists are already pointing to Brown’s support among Pro-Israeli PACs.
Meanwhile, organized labor appears to be split between Turner and Brown. Turner has the support of the ATU, Postal Workers, SEIU and National Nurses United, while Brown is backed by the Bricklayers, SMART, IUPAT and the UAW.
Brown’s most prominent supporter, however, is not from Ohio. When Hillary Clinton endorsed Brown via Twitter on June 16 it substantially raised Brown’s profile, and brought back all the old Hillary-Bernie animosity. Turner was already ahead of Brown in fundraising, for example, but after Clinton’s endorsement Turner was eager to announce that her campaign enjoyed its best day yet.
For the moment, the candidates seem hesitant to fully re-open those old wounds. So far Turner’s been reluctant to discuss intra-party divisions instead of the issues, while Brown revealed during the candidates’ first debate that she’d vote for ‘Medicare for All’ legislation. As primary night nears, of course, the pressure for the candidates to begin picking fights will exponentially increase.
OH-15: Trump Dives Back In
Over in Ohio’s 15th Congressional district, there’s a similar wide-open, mult-candidate primary. Although 11 contenders are currently in the race, three men have managed to stand out from the pack.
State Rep. Jeff LaRe earned the endorsement of Steve Stivers, the man who held this seat until last May. In most years, that would be enough to earn the support of the full roster of local officials, but not this year. This time, several state politicians are instead throwing their weight behind Sen. Bob Peterson.
Yet neither of these men scored the biggest endorsement of them all, as Donald Trump decided to endorse Mike Carey. Carey, a VP at a coal mining company, seemingly leveraged the support of former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski to score a Trump Tower invite.
As a result, the OH-15 special election will serve as a test of Donald Trump’s power in the Republican Party as he prepares a comeback bid.