Ohio Senate Update

by Brien Jackson

I should have got on this earlier, but quite a bit has happened since the last time I wrote about the coming race to replace George Voinovich in the Senate. As predicted, Congressman Tim Ryan decided to stay in the House, where he’s getting quite cushy. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner decided to toss her hat into the ring, prompting something of a paniced reaction on the part of Lt. Governor Lee Fisher. Brunner has the support of the state blog community, while Fisher has the announced support of a pretty impressive list of state officials, including Governor Strickland, the leader of the state House, and Rep. Ryan. With two prominent candidates in the race, the Ohio Democratic Party will probably not hand down an endorsement in the race, and BSB is pressuring candidates not to seek their endorsement, which Brunner, at least, has agreed to. There are a handful of other candidates in the race, but either Brunner or Fisher will be the Democratic nominee to face Rob Portman.

The wild card in the race is going to be how Democratic institutions sort this out. Even if the ODP stays, officially, out of the contest, there will be plenty of interest groups and other aspects of the Democratic establishment coming into play, and I suspect that there will be quite a lot of institutional pressure put on Brunner to drop out of the contest in time to run for re-election as Secretary of State. Ultimately, the state party structure is most worried about the apportionment board, and are certainly concerned that Ohio Republicans would put maximum resources into trying to recapture the Secretary of State’s office in an open contest.

Personally, I’m endorsing Fisher in the contest. I certainly like Secretary Brunner; she’s a very capable public official and I hope she has a long future in Ohio government, but at the end of the day the apportionment board is too important to role the dice on. Lee Fisher will make a fine Senator, and the Secretary of State’s office is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Also, with Fisher in the Senate until at least 2016, Brunner would be the natural front runner for the gubernatorial nomination when Governor Strickland is term limited out of office in 2014. I’d certainly be inclined to support her then, and would otherwise prefer her over Fisher this time around, but, alas, there are other concerns that simply can not be ignored. I hope the various groups that will certainly have some interest in the race can keep that in mind, and I hope Secretary Brunner is winning in November; I just hope it’s re-election she’s winning.

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