The lineup of statewide Democratic candidates remains unsettled.

A few weeks ago, the race for U.S. Senate appeared settled with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan clearing the field. Then Columbus attorney Morgan Harper entered the fray and Ryan became less than a cinch to gain the nomination.

Democrats can hardly ignore Harper. A progressive Black woman, she took on but lost to U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty in the 2020 primary for the Columbus-based Congressional seat.

Convention wisdom would suggest that Harper give that race another whirl in 2022, though its boundaries have not been decided. Its makeup as a safe Black seat could be altered by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, the Ohio Legislature or the Ohio Supreme Court as the remap drama continues in Ohio.

More conventional wisdom would suggest that the thirty-something Harper run for a lesser office such as state representative or city council to build her political portfolio.

Instead Harper chose to run for an even higher office, the U.S. Senate, also known as the world's most exclusive club. Ohioans voting a Black women into the club would make double history.

Most party leaders initially gave Harper the cold shoulder, having already pledged their support to Ryan.

She responded by charging that it was business as usual and that the fix was in. That she was a Black woman being ostracized by a party that cannot win without Black and woman voters put Ryan and his supporters on the defensive.

Reports are that Ryan is now welcoming her candidacy and offering to participate in a series of debates, as she asked.

Ryan's best option is to defeat her convincingly, but fair and square, and to win her backing in the general election, thus not alienating Black and woman voters.

Hartman Wisdom, now offered to Harper, is to change course and seek a Congressional seat, a state legislative office (a friendly district for her may emerge from reapportionment), a Franklin County office, or a statewide administrative post. Harper is better known, having announced for the Senate, similar to how Ryan got better known in Ohio by campaigning for President in 2017 and then stepping aside  It would work for her to stay in the Senate race for a spell, withdraw, and then run for a different office with Ryan's blessing and the thanks of grateful party leaders.

Where is Jim Tressel when we need him?

He was a big-winning head football coach of Ohio's mightiest team.

He is the long-time and successful president of a state university.

Before that, he was a big-winning football coach at that same state university.

The only realm of the Buckeye State that Jim Tressel has not conquered is the political one.

After all, his nickname during his Ohio State University coaching days was "The Senator." His personal diplomacy is legendary.

The field for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat is already crowded and the current Youngstown State University president would be loath to take on the pride of Youngstown, Tim Ryan. It would be very undiplomatic.

Governor? That is another matter.

The Democratic Party needs a candidate for governor to change the discussion from "How badly will we lose?" to "With Tress we just might win."

The fact that Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley are the only Democratic candidates out there speaks volumes about how empty the bench is.

Take name recognition, likeability rating, job experience, fund-raising ability, polling matchups and personal wealth. Tress blows Whaley and Cranley away.

One unanswered question is Tressel's party affiliation. If he were a Democrat, he would be keeping it quiet because Ohio has been run by Republicans for most of his adult life. As president of YSU, seeking financial support from the GOP governors and major state legislators, he is way too diplomatic to spout Democratic dogma.. He doubtless donates to Ohio Republicans to keep them feeling friendly toward financing YSU.

At age 68 and turning 69 in a month, Tressel can hardly get in line for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and other statewide elected officials would stand in his way. Tress would be 80 before got his chance, if ever.

Post-World War II,  there was a lot of talk about the political affiliation of Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower, the heroic leader of the U.S. forces in World War II. Both parties wanted him. The Republicans persuaded Ike to run on their ticket for the Presidency, and he won it for them in 1952 and 1956, ending 20 years of Democratic control.

Hartman Wisdom says that Ohio Democrats need Jim Tressel badly. We need a hero on a white horse who made his bones outside of politics, who was born, raised and lived his life in the Buckeye State. Tress has fans in all 88 counties and they are heavily concentrated in Columbus and Central Ohio, from his days coaching the Buckeyes (including beating Michigan) and he is revered in The Valley, the Youngstown-Warren region, for his coaching and chief executive work there.

In case, you are not watching the calendar, the deadline for filing petitions for governor, senator, the state administrative offices, the Ohio Supreme Court, Congress, the Ohio Legislature and county offices is barely three months away, Feb. 2, 2022. The primary is May 3 and the general election is Nov. 8.

If you subtract Thanksgiving weekend, the Christmas and New Year's holidays and days off, there are about 40 working days left before the filing deadline.

Democrats had a widely admired star to recruit to run for statewide office in former state health director Amy Acton. She said "no." Maybe Jim Tressel will say "yes." It would not hurt to ask.

November's Campaign 2022 Democratic Scorecard

Ryan is my pick for U.S. Senate for the seventh consecutive month.               

Jim Tressel replaces Aftab Pureval, the favorite in the race for mayor of Cincinnati on Nov. 2, as the Democrats' best choice for senator, oops, I mean governor. I am sticking with Columbus Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown for lieutenant governor. Aftab, if he wins in Cincy, is the best alternative for governor if Tressel declines.

Columbus city attorney, Zach Klein, remains my pick for attorney general to send Dave Yost, as in ghost, to the sidelines.  Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin gets my nod for state auditor. The time has come to elect a young gay Black man to statewide office. I am sticking with former State Rep. Kathleen Clyde for secretary of state. She needs to announce soon or lose momentum. Cranley, a struggling candidate for the gubernatorial nomination, is my choice for treasurer. He has earned a spot on the ticket.

That's five men, two women, one minority, and one gay. Three from Columbus. One  from Cincinnati. Three from northeast Ohio.


-- Veteran campaign manager Jerry Austin has published the second volume of his True Tales from the Campaign Trail in which he shares great stories from inside major political campaigns. And former Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper is out with Laboratories of Autocracy, his informed takes on the real threats to our Democracy. Join me in reading both books. Send your comments to my email address below.

-- Ohio's redistricting mess continues as the Republicans try to run out the clock and have only a vague recollection of who drew up the latest version of one-sided maps. Our Congressional and State Legislative districts for 2022 and the rest of the decade ultimately will be decided by the Ohio Supreme Court. Hope for equity springs eternal, but I would not bet the ranch that Democrats get any more than lip service and another hosing.

-- The Dispatch editorial page is so wishy-washy now that I think it endorsed Democrat Allison Russo in the CD-15 Special Election over Mike Carey, largely because he refused to sit for an interview, as Russo did. But I am not sure.

-- Picked up a copy of the San Diego Union-Tribune while in SoCal last week, and, lo and behold, the paper had a story about the previous night's National League playoff game. It reminded me of all we lost when the Dispatch went to early afternoon deadlines.

-- Toured Joshua Tree National Park while out West. It was desolate, yet beautiful. Reminded me that some central Ohio structures are beautiful, yet desolate.

-- The Dispatch, as required by law, published its annual Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation in early October. It showed that the paper lost another 6,000 in paid print circulation over the year, down to 38,000. On the digital side, the Dispatch gained 3,700 digital subscriptions, up to 34,500. The problem is that digital subscriptions tend to be heavily discounted (6 months for $1) and that digital advertising brings in a fraction of what print does. The Dispatch continues to be a business in steep decline. It needs more than a new editor to turn the tide, though one has not been named yet.

-- The latest graveyard whistle from the Dispatch is a so-called mobile newsroom, supposedly to get reporters and editors out talking to people. It is more empty PR.

Reporters and editors are by definition out talking to people and generating story ideas.. If the Dispatch's journalists were not out and about already, get rid of them.

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

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