An old political axiom is: "You can't beat somebody with nobody."

An Ohio political axiom is: "It is hard to win the first time around for statewide office. Ohioans vote for the familiar."

Considering the two axioms together, one can only conclude that Ohio Democrats are on the doomsday bus to hell in 2022.

Among the current Democratic lineup, only Jennifer Brunner of Columbus, who won for secretary of state in 2006 and Ohio Supreme Court justice in 2020, has run statewide. Brunner is vying for chief justice.

In a major change, candidates for the high court will carry a party designation next to their name on the general election ballot. The Republican-run Ohio legislature eliminated the non-partisan designation because Democrats have captured three of the seven judgeships in our otherwise GOP-dominated state. The GOP cannot redistrict statewide races like they are trying to do with congressional and state legislative districts, unless, of all places, the Ohio Supreme Court rules to the contrary.

Of course, I wish Brunner had stayed put because what happened the last time she tried to jump offices. In 2010, she lost a bloody primary for the U.S. Senate to Lee Fisher, who subsequently lost to Rob Portman. This triggered the doomsday bus to hell of 2010 that saw the Republicans regain control of state government, that it has not relinquished. Worse yet, if Brunner wins for chief justice, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine will still have a few days left in office and doubtless will appoint a Republican to replace her, cutting into Democratic gains.

Two other Democrats have announced for the other two justice seats: Judge Terri Jamison of suburban Columbus and Judge Marilyn Zayas of Cincinnati. Neither has run statewide before and both are unknown outside their home areas. That means that 85% of Ohioans have never heard of them. See axioms above.

Turning to non-judicial races, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Youngstown is the front-runner in the U.S. Senate primary. While he has never run statewide, he has been talked about as a statewide candidate for a decade. He also boosted his name recognition by being a candidate for the presidential nomination for a few months in 2019. First, he must ward off insurgent progressive Morgan Harper primary in the primary without alienating her supporters. The Ohio Democratic Party must treat Ryan and Harper equally and must conduct debates between them (as well as between the gubernatorial candidates) in the interest of fairness. Ryan is helped in that many Ohioans probably think he has run statewide before because of his high name recognition. Irish last names do well in Ohio, too. Meanwhile, six Republicans are chewing each other up in their primary and the party bitterly divided over Trump may have trouble coming together after the primary. Yet Republicans are better at healing after bitter primaries than Democrats.

The rival Democratic gubernatorial tickets are in place and the foursome are about to duke it out in the May 3 primary. Unfortunately, they are little known outside their home areas and have never run statewide.

Former mayor John Cranley of Cincinnati selected Teresa Fedor, a longtime state legislator from Toledo, as his running mate. Former mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton picked Cuyahoga County councilwoman Cheryl Stephens as her teammate.

Plusses for Cranley are that Cincinnati is much bigger than Dayton and its influence extends into Dayton and that Fedor comes from Toledo, one of the few Democratic strongholds left in Ohio. Fedor's stature as a veteran legislator makes her well qualified to be governor, too. Add the two metropolitan areas together and you have about one-quarter of the Democratic votes in Ohio. Also, Cranley is better at speaking to the issues that matter to Ohioans than Whaley.

Advantages for Whaley are that Stephens comes from Democratic vote rich Cleveland and northeast Ohio, Stephens is Black and it hard for Democrats to win anything in Ohio without the Black vote, and they are trumpeting that they compose Ohio's first all-female gubernatorial ticket for a major party. It is hard for Democrats to win without the female vote. Add the two metropolitan areas together and you have about one-third of the Democratic vote in Ohio.

What the? Columbus and Central Ohio do not have a representative at the top of the ticket it spite of its burgeoning population and becoming a Democratic stronghold on a par with Cleveland and northeast Ohio. In fact, Columbus only has Brunner and Jamison as Supreme Court candidates on the list of statewide candidates.

There are four other statewide offices. Three have unknown candidates and the fourth does not even have a candidate a month before the filing deadline. If you are unknown and want to be a serious candidate, should you not get in early and start campaigning avidly?

Jeffrey Crossman has put in for attorney general. Crickets.

Taylor Sappington has announced for auditor. Crickets.

Chelsea Clark is in for secretary of state. I have heard of Clark, a city council member in suburban Cincinnati. She has been campaigning and fund-raising for several months. Her common last name will serve her well among Ohioans who like the familiar. No crickets, but no pow either.

Nobody has come forth to run for state treasurer. Double crickets.

By the way, Crossman is a state representative from Parma, in vote-rich Cuyahoga County, so there's that.

And by the way, Sappington is the city auditor in Nelsonville, a small city in southeastern Ohio. You bypass it on the way to Athens, so there's that.

Remember the big names who ran close races for state offices in 2018? Kathleen Clyde for secretary of state, Steve Dettelbach for attorney general and Zack Space for auditor. There are on the sidelines.

Here is a list of other well-known Ohio Democrats who would be superior candidates to the three unknowns who remain on the sidelines: Former Ohio treasurer candidate and ex-State Rep. Connie Pillich, Ohio Democratic Party ex-chair and former Ohio attorney general candidate David Pepper, Dr. Amy Acton, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, Columbus City Attorney Zack Klein, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, former Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, former Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General Lee Fisher, former State Sen. Lou Gentile, former Ohio Attorney General and Treasurer Richard Cordray, former State Sen. and current Judge Joe Schiavoni, House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, Assistant House Minority Leader Kristin Boggs, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, Columbus City Council Vice President Elizabeth Brown, and Columbus State Rep. Allison Russo.

The list of no-shows goes on and on. Why aren't they running? The answer is because their political radar tells them that running statewide as a Democrat is a lost cause.

Also on the sidelines are Liz Walters, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, and her "team." This is the best they could come up with? For shame.

It is possible that one of the gubernatorial candidates will back off and run for a lesser statewide office, providing a credible candidate. Don't bet the ranch on it.

I tried to do my part. Since November, 2020, I have been printing my monthly Campaign 2022 Democratic Scorecard to encourage good Democrats to come forward, such as Dr. Acton. I failed. I am ending the scorecard feature with this issue.


-- After 143 years of service to Columbus and 7 years of liquidation, the Columbus Dispatch finally has a female editor, err female interim editor. Managing Editor Kelly Lecker has been put in charge of the sinking ship, replacing the departed Alan Miller. She survived several years at the Toledo Blade, under the ownership of the goofy Block family, and several years under the Wolfe family reign of terror before GateHouse/Gannett took over and showed that a big corporation's newspaper ownership would be even worse for a community than an unhorsed family's. She's off to a bad start by aping Miller's "we'll cover the neighborhoods" PR gimmickry. Hey Kelly, why not announce: "We are going to cover the news without fear or favor." Then do it.

-- 120 miles up the road, the editor of what is left of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, now called (code for shrinking audience and influence), is blaming its lack of subscribers for the growing uncovered corruption in Ohio government. If folks would just subscribe, editor Chris Quinn wrote, we could do our watchdog role. No, Chris, that is not how it works. First, you prove your paper/website's worth by uncovering all the crap going on in Ohio. (Remember, the First Energy/Householder alleged criminality took place under your nose and was revealed by the U.S. attorney, not  you.) Second, you go to the prospective subscribers and say, "See what we are doing to make your world a better place. How about a few bucks?" You have it backward, buddy.

-- There are signs that Nan Whaley's campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for governor may be flagging. She already was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Now Brown is doing photo ops with her, taking time away from his 2024 re-election campaign.

-- Ohio's getting sports gambling by the end of the year. Folks need to be entertained. A trip to Las Vegas reminded me that Nevada has had it for years. Why is Ohio always playing catch up?

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

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