Young woman smiling and standing outside

Alaina Shearer

NEWS ITEM: Alaina Shearer, insurgent Democratic candidate for John Kasich's old Congressional seat (OH-12), caused shockwaves in Republican circles when she outraised her opponent U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson in the most recent reporting period.

Republican Balderson originally eked out a victory in a special election two years ago over Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor. It took none other than President Trump to descend upon the district at the last minute to gin up support for Balderson and save the GOP bacon. Balderson beat O'Connor by a slightly larger margin in the general election three months later. rates this contest as "leans Republican." It is the only Congressional race in Ohio that the political website considers competitive. The district of nearly 800,000 people consists of a swath of north-central Franklin County, all of Delaware, Licking, and Morrow counties, and parts of Muskingum, Richland and Marion counties.

HARTMAN SAYS:  Shearer, 40, of rural Powell in Delaware County, roars. She is "everywoman" in every sense of the word. She makes fund-raising calls while cooking dinner for her blended family. She is a digital entrepreneur. Her commentaries take women's conscientiousness to the next level. She is running the campaign her way. Balderson is running for cover. Hopefully, O'Connor soon will endorse her and lend a hand as so many district residents did for him two years ago.

NEWS ITEM: Once again, Ohio Republicans appear to be caught with their hands in the till, or on the nuclear plant control panel. House Speaker Larry Householder is accused of creating a non-profit and turning it into a political slush fund to fatten his pockets and fund allies to keep him in power.

The scandal's tentacles reach into both houses of the state legislature and into the U.S. House of Representatives, including donations to Balderson.

Couple this with President Trump's under-water popularity in Ohio, which appears to have turned the Buckeye State back into a Battleground State, and one cannot help but believe that a Democratic landslide will envelop Ohio on Nov. 3.

HARTMAN SAYS: Do not count your blue chickens before they hatch. The ECOT scandal and the forced resignation of House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger did not lead to a Democratic takeover of the state in 2018. Tap-dancing Republicans are not to be underestimated and a nodding public is not to be overestimated.

NEWS ITEM: Michael Drake retired as president of Ohio State University one day and emerged the next to accept the presidency of the University of California system, a giant multi-campus system that dwarfs OSU in size and scope.

Meanwhile, during one of the most trying times in its history, OSU is in the hands of temporary leaders until its new president Kristina Johnson takes over the end of August. She is leaving as chancellor of the State University of New York system after two years.

HARTMAN SAYS: Not to worry. Athletic Director Gene Smith is the de facto president of OSU as he keeps the football trains running on time. First things first, Buckeyes.

I wrote two years ago that OSU would not be big enough to employ both Drake as president and Urban Meyer as football coach, following the latter's suspension for three games for covering up for an assistant coach and resignation after the season ended. Meyer never completely left as he became a part-time OSU employee.

Now that Drake is gone, OSU is big enough for Meyer to become head football coach again in the event his replacement Ryan Day defects to the NFL for $10 million a year, becomes disenchanted with Buckeye Nation, or proves to be a flash in the pan.

The smartest of them all is Johnson, the incoming OSU president. Would you rather work for swashbuckling and overbearing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo or mild-mannered and less meddlesome Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine?

NEWS ITEM: Give the Columbus Dispatch some credit. The financially struggling daily newspaper and website keeps asking OSU for public information and the colossus that calls itself a university keeps delaying and denying.

Want to know how many OSU football players have COVID-19?  OSU won't tell.

Want to know key details about the OSU athletic budget? Mum's the OSU word.

Through the years, OSU regularly has narrowly interpreted privacy and secrecy laws to keep the Ohio public (the taxpayers who pay its subsidy) in the dark.

HARTMAN SAYS: Perhaps a new name is in order: Ohio Secrecy University.

NEWS ITEM: Recently Gov. DeWine has been the target of bitter criticism from his fellow Republicans. Polls show Democrats and Independents are happier with him than his own kind. Speaker Householder was outspokenly angry on many fronts. Several western Ohio GOP county parties passed resolutions criticizing DeWine. Mask-averse, gut-toting right-wingers targeted him with a big protest at the Capitol.

HARTMAN SAYS:  DeWine is the undisputed kingpin of the GOP now that Householder is under indictment and others are scurrying for cover. Meanwhile, DeWine is largely above the fray and will be seen as the one person who can put the party back together in time to avert a Democratic takeover in November. Public opinion polls that show Joe Biden ahead of Trump in Ohio, but fail to take into the account the power of DeWine's endorsement and the GOP machine.

NEWS ITEM: One Ohio Republican who will not be campaigning for Trump this fall is former Governor Kasich. He has alienated most Ohio GOP loyalists as a Trump critic. Reports are that Kasich, a CNN commentator and author of poor-selling, excessively moralizing books,  has been invited to speak on behalf of Joe Biden at the Democrats' virtual convention in mid-August.

HARTMAN SAYS: No words can describe the joy that I will feel if Kasich is scratched. If Johnny Nobody wants to endorse Biden, so be it, but he should do it on his own time. Few Ohio Republicans have done more damage to Democratic candidates and Democratic ideals over the years than Kasich has. You can bet that Kasich will be out there campaigning for Balderson in the fall.

NEWS ITEM: The annual Republican public relations gimmick, tax-free purchases for back-to-school items, occurs in early August.

HARTMAN SAYS: The pandemic has reduced the tax take of Ohio governmental units by millions. The rainy day fund is about to be drained. The few dollars taxpayers may save will be dwarfed by the additional taxes that will have to be imposed at the state and local level to keep the schools and other government services afloat. I predict that Gov. DeWine and the Legislature will take up a temporary sales tax hike on Nov. 4.

NEWS ITEM: Kelly Lecker, a 48-year-old woman, has been promoted to managing editor of the Columbus Dispatch.

HARTMAN SAYS: It is way past time to bust up the old white male culture of the Dispatch. That said, as a 16-year veteran of the Dispatch newsroom, Lecker must overcome her training by the old white male culture. If we see an increased emphasis on coverage from women's and diverse perspectives, if we see new female columnists, if we see new Black, Hispanic and LBGTQ columnists, then I will give executive editor and general manager Alan Miller, who promoted Lecker, a pat on the back. Gasp!

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman,

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