COLUMBUS, Ohio – With only 5½ months to go until the Ohio Prime Candidate Deadline in 2022, there is an unusual shortage of Democratic candidates for most state-wide offices.
While there are competitive Democratic primaries for the top two statewide offices – the U.S. Senate and the governor – Chelsea Clark, a relatively unknown city council member from suburban Cincinnati, is secretary for the only Democrat who has campaigned nationwide in the state .
No Democrats have announced – or even publicly investigated – campaigns for attorneys general, state treasurers, or state auditors. By comparison, in mid-August 2017, the possible Democratic candidates for all four down-ticket executive offices announced their intention to run months earlier.
“You’d think things were speeding up already, especially with the incumbent challengers, but it just didn’t happen,” said Paul Beck, political scientist at Ohio State University.
Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Matt Keyes said state party leaders are still recruiting candidates ahead of the February 2, 2022 main submission deadline, and some have expressed interest – although he refused to name those people.
“We have had some good conversations and are confident that we will have a strong, diverse ticket,” he said.
According to conversations with Keyes, fellow Democratic officials, and Ohio political observers, there are three reasons why so few Democrats have thrown their hats in the ring for statewide offices:
1. You face an uphill battle against the established GOP members
In 2018, Republicans won not only the governor’s race, but the races for Attorney General (Dave Yost), Secretary of State (Frank LaRose), Treasurer of State (Robert Sprague), and State Auditor (Keith Faber). All four are expected to run for re-election next year, and they are considered to be even stronger candidates this time around. Not only are they incumbents (making it easier for them to raise money and give voters a familiar name), but conventional political wisdom dictates that the party that controls the White House has problems with midterm elections. In 2018, Republican Donald Trump was President; In this cycle, it’s Democrat Joe Biden. In addition, many grassroots Democrats pay more attention to the governor and Senate races, which they see as more important and potentially more valuable.
Perhaps the biggest factor giving Democrats a break is redistribution. As Ohio – like other states – embarks on its 10-year process of redesigning its congressional and legislative districts, many Democrats are waiting to see what the new cards will look like before deciding on their plans for 2022. Democrats in the state legislature (a frequent source of statewide candidates for the party) want to see if the newly drawn districts jeopardize their re-election opportunities, and Democrats both inside and outside the legislature are keeping their options open to run for Congress or another legislative seat if the redistribution gives them a good chance of victory.
3. Democrats have a comparatively weak bank
Over the past decade, Ohio Democrats have faced the same blow in their election opportunities: with Republicans in control of all three branches of state government (and dominating the Ohio Congressional delegation), there aren’t that many prominent Democratic incumbents who rise in the ranks to run a competitive campaign for the statewide office. That often means that when Democrats run, they have to spend more time introducing themselves to voters, raising money, and building a nationwide political campaign.