Ohio’s Congressional map finished its decade-long undefeated streak on Tuesday as all 16 incumbents won new two-year terms in what will be the final election with the current boundaries.
The state is set to use a new process to draw legislative lines for the first time after the 2020 Census is complete, potentially ending an era of districts that are gerrymandered to favor Republicans in 12 of the state’s 16 districts.
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Since the new map was drawn following the 2010 Census, the controlling party has never lost an election in any of those districts.
Like the rest of the state, central Ohio’s Congressional delegation remained intact after Tuesday’s election. Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Columbus area Democrat, and Republicans Rep. Steve Stivers, of Columbus, and Rep. Troy Balderson, of Zanesville, all won re-election.
Just before midnight Tuesday, AP also had called the races in favor of Ohio’s four incumbent Democrats in Congress and for all 12 Republican representatives.
Republican Reps. Stivers, Balderson Jim Jordan, Steve Chabot, Brad Wenstrup, Bob Latta, Bill Johnson, Bob Gibbs, Mike Turner, Warren Davidson, David Joyce and Anthony Gonzalez all will win re-election, according to the Associated Press, as will Democratic Reps. Beatty Marcy Kaptur, Marcia Fudge and Tim Ryan.
Chabot, a Cincinnati Republican, was thought to be vulnerable in 2020, but – like many things about the 2020 election – the prognostications got that wrong too. The Associated Press called the election for Chabot, the last Ohio Congressional race called, just before midnight on Tuesday.
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It didn’t take long for Democrats running against the Republican majority in Ohio’s Congressional delegation to place the blame for their election losses on Ohio’s complicated web of districts, which have earned nicknames like “the snake on the lake” and the “duck district” for their unusual boundaries.
In a video posted to her campaign’s Facebook account, Balderson’s Democratic opponent, Alaina Shearer, blamed her election loss in the 12th Congressional District on Republicans who “rigged the system” by drawing gerrymandered Congressional districts to favor their party.
“We knew it would be a tough race. We know the odds were so steep and so far against us because of the way this district is gerrymandered, not because of who we are as Ohioans,” Shearer said.
Attorney Joel Newby, the Democrat running against Stivers in the 15th Congressional District, also said the results are a reflection of Ohio’s gerrymandered districts.
“I’m OK with losing a race to a Republican but I’m not ok with losing a race because it was favored to the Republican before the get-go,” he said. “I’m not a sore loser. I want to work with Rep. Stivers as much as possible. It’s my goal to make this district better. I will do whatever it takes.”
Both of those districts dip into deep blue Franklin County, where legislative cartographers carved away the few GOP-friendly pieces of the county to split into the two districts and packed Democrats into a single district.
Beatty won there again on Tuesday, as she has in each election since voters first sent her to Capitol Hill in 2012.
Her Republican opponent, Mark F. Richardson, was more complimentary of Beatty after the race was called shortly after early voting ballots were counted but acknowledged that a Republican stood little chance in the district.
Richardson said he appreciated that Beatty “ran a very civil campaign,” but he lamented what he described as a lack of support from the Franklin County Republican Party.
“Being a veteran, a decorated veteran, I love my country. That’s what encouraged me to run is the political climate that we’re in. We need people who will put the country before politics. That’s what encouraged me to run. I knew it would be a tough district,” he said.
Richardson, a U.S. Navy veteran who also has worked in corporate finance, was running his first campaign.
Beatty, a four-term Democratic congresswoman from Jefferson Township, was elected to a fifth consecutive term. In unofficial results, she had received about 70% of the vote.
“Tonight we are kicking butt,” Beatty said shortly after polls closed during a Facebook Live broadcast with the Franklin County Democratic Party. “Ohio looks good. Franklin County looks good.”
Beatty has represented Ohio’s 3rd Congressional district, one of the state’s few districts gerrymandered to favor Democrats, since she was first elected to the open seat in 2012. Before that, she was a senior vice president at Ohio State University and spent five terms in the Ohio House, where she was the first woman to lead her party caucus.
Beatty won a spring primary, the first she faced since her election to Congress in 2012, easily fending off a challenge from a progressive candidate supported by a national group looking to unseat moderate Democrats in safe districts. Beatty outspent her primary opponent 3 to 1 and brought a significantly larger war chest to the general election than Richardson.
Like Beatty, Stivers carried a heavy fundraising advantage into his race.
Stivers has held the seat since 2011 and ran for a sixth consecutive term. Newby was running his first campaign. Stivers first ran for Congress in 2008, but lost to Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy, whom he would go on to defeat two years later.
“This year has been unlike any other, and I’m incredibly grateful that the voters of the 15th District have put their trust in me to help get our communities back on track,” Stivers said in a prepared statement. “I’ve heard, loud and clear, about the importance of working together to solve the problems facing our nation and I’m ready to get to work.”
Balderson was thought to be the most vulnerable of the central Ohio delegation, but unofficial results had the first-term congressman carrying 55% of the vote.
“I’m committed to continuing my work and reaching across the aisle to get results for Ohioans. My campaign was about just that – results, not more of the same empty rhetoric that already plagues Washington,” Balderson said in a prepared statment. “I will continue to build on my record of results for Ohioans, starting with restoring our way of life and rebuilding the greatest American economy in half a century. That’s what the people of Ohio want, and that’s why they re-elected me.”
Balderson, of Zanesville, ran for re-election to the seat for the first time after winning twice in 2018: defeating Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor once in an August special election to finish the term of former Rep. Pat Tiberi, who resigned to take another job, in a contest that drew national attention, and then again in the general election for his first full two-year term.
The district was drawn to favor Republicans, but Shearer, from Delaware, was trying to capitalize on the parts of the district in suburban Franklin County that, like the rest of the county, are turning blue and by pitching herself as a moderate. The district, though, also stretches across red, rural counties north and east of Franklin County.
Unofficial results from the Ohio Secretary of State also indicated that voters in Ohio’s 4th district were poised to return Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, to Congress for an eighth term.
Jordan, one of the most conservative voices in Congress and a fierce defender of President Donald Trump, appeared to easily fight off challenges from Democrat Shannon Freshour, a former litigation paralegal from Marysville and Libertarian Steve Perkins, who lives outside the district in Pataskala.
Jordan led with 68% of the vote with 99% of ballots counted.
The primarily rural, duck-shaped district stretches from Lima to Marysville, and north Elyria.
Jordan, a high-school and college wrestling champion, previously served in the Ohio Senate from 2001 to 2007 and in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1995 to 2000.
Dispatch reporter Catherine Candisky contributed to this report.
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