In new post-Roe era of “states rights,” voters told Ohio Republicans they can get their freak on

November 11, 2022 4:20 am

The Oho Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes. Republish photo only with original story.)

With the new emphasis the U.S. Supreme Court put on the importance of state government in this post-Roe v. Wade era, many Americans decided Tuesday to put some checks in place. They also roasted some conspiracy nuts over the camp fire.

Abortion rights ballot questions were passed in five states, including GOP-dominated Kentucky to the south, as well as in Michigan to the north, where Democrats won a trifecta by taking control of their legislature for the first time in nearly 40 years, alongside Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s victory over election denier Tudor Dixon. In fact, voters in 12 states elected women as governor this year, the most ever.

Not Ohio. Ohioans once again gave Republicans every ounce of statewide power they could possibly need to get their absolute freak on.

Continued massive public corruption and government invasion of Ohioans’ private lives? No problem, voters said. Have at it.

In 2022, Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia solidified themselves as the perennial swing states, while Ohio and Florida yeeted themselves off the cliff of any national political relevance.

Republican control over state government in Ohio has been tradition for most of my lifetime, but so had Ohio’s national importance as a swing state. After this election, only the first will remain.

The stark facts of Ohio’s demographic and population trends of growing older and losing population everywhere but the Columbus area, combined with our being the 15th least educated state in the country, mean national consultants will write us off as in the bag, or unwinnable, depending on their party. They largely already were, but Tuesday’s results cinched it.

Graphic from Ballotpedia.

Any good news for Ohio Democrats?

In the national battle for U.S. Congress, the results aren’t fully in, but the GOP does look to win a narrow majority in the U.S. House. The fate of the U.S. Senate may well come down to another Georgia run-off.

Across the country, Donald Trump’s slate of lackeys and election deniers got smacked — including J.R. Majewski here in Ohio, as Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur beat him by 13 points to become the longest-serving woman in U.S. Congressional history when she is sworn in come January.

In fact, in U.S. House races, Ohio Democrats took all three that were competitive.

In addition to the Kaptur victory, Democratic Cincinnati City Council member Greg Landsman ousted Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot in Cincinnati, and former Democratic Ohio House leader Emilia Sykes won Ohio’s open District 13 seat that includes Summit County, and parts of Portage and Stark.

That’s where the good news ends for Ohio Democrats.

Lots of good news for Ohio Republicans

Due to unconstitutional gerrymandering, Ohio Republicans still have a 10-5 majority among Ohio’s U.S. Congressional delegation under maps that were drawn to give the GOP those 10 safe seats and Democrats two.

Ohio Republicans also handily won the races for U.S. Senate, the Ohio Supreme Court, Ohio governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, and treasurer.

Under unconstitutional gerrymandering, they also increased their majority in the Ohio Senate by one, with an upcoming 27-6 supermajority, and in the Ohio House by likely 3 or 4 seats, moving the chamber from 64-35 to 67-32, or 68-31 depending on outstanding ballots.

It appears any vaunted “red wave” came from Lake Erie, crashed hard on Ohio, and petered out from there.

But the Ohio GOP already had control, what really changes?

Considering that Ohio Republicans already hold all our statewide executive offices, as well as the gerrymandered supermajorities in the legislature, and 4-3 control over the Ohio Supreme Court, one might wonder what has really changed.

Moving forward, with Republican Ohio Supreme Court swing vote Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor out of the way, Republicans won’t just have party control over the court; they will have ideological control over it as well.

It’s a distinction that will make an incredibly consequential difference to millions of people’s lives here in our new era of “state’s rights.”

And it’s why I say that Ohioans have now given Republicans the green light to really get their freak on.

That’s exactly what I expect them to do.

A full abortion ban? Bet. My only question is whether they do it in lame-duck with their smaller supermajorities in the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate, or wait until after the new year when they have those bigger supermajorities.

Continued gerrymandering? I already predicted before the election that, at the very least, they will rubber stamp our current unconstitutionally gerrymandered maps as “constitutional.” But now I very seriously wonder if they go ahead and draw even-more gerrymandered districts, as approval from the courts is essentially guaranteed if that’s what they want to do. After all, how dare the Democrats flip a congressional seat?

Photo voter ID? It’s already proposed and I assume sooner or later it’s headed for passage. If they can think of a way to loosen gun laws further than they already have, they will. More tax cuts that prioritize the well-to-do? Without question. Deregulation that favors polluters, grifters, and scoundrels? You can count on it. Sweetheart lawmaking for big donors, lobbyists, and special interests? The Magic 8-Ball says “Yes” to all of it.

Bullying trans people and trans children with the power of state law? Absolutely. Attacks on freedom of thought and expression in education with anti-“divisive concepts,” and anti-LGBTQ+ laws? No doubt. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted previewed as much on election night, promising in his victory speech that the DeWine Administration’s reelection would mean “more control over what your children are exposed to at school.”

Secretary of State Frank LaRose also telegraphed another Ohio Republican priority that I now assume they are gaming out: Limiting the ability of citizens to pass amendments to the Ohio Constitution by requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. From LaRose’s remarks, this is obviously a conversation they are now having privately, and I assume it’s only a matter of time before they make their move.

This would be especially important for them — and I imagine a current pressure point from the religious zealot lobby — considering the now-six states that have protected access to abortion care post-Roe by going directly to voters, including in GOP-controlled states. They also would want to block as best they can any further pesky redistricting reforms that might deal a blow to their sweet gerrymandering gig.

With Ohio Republicans totally unbridled of any check on even the fundamental rule of law that O’Connor served as, I expect the entire smorgasbord of manufactured-outrage, reactionary policy platters du jour to be on the Lazy Susan of their lawmaking from here on in.



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David DeWitt
David DeWitt

OCJ Editor-in-Chief and Columnist David DeWitt has been covering government, politics, and policy in Ohio since 2007, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt