Monday, December 11, 2006

My, how far we've come.

As the news media and blogosphere plunge headlong into the emerging 2008 Presidential race, with stories on who will and who won't throw their hat into the campaign ring, it is worth taking a step back and taking stock of just how far Ohio Democrats came in the 2006 election cycle. As the frequent saying goes, you can't really know where you are without knowing how you got there.

Before November 7th, 2006, it had been 14 years since a Democrat was elected to a statewide office in Ohio. That last victory was in 1992, when the legendary John Glenn was re-elected to his fourth and final term representing Ohio in the U.S. Senate. 1994 was a bad year for Democrats nationally, but in Ohio it was a disaster, as it marked the complete desolution of decades of control of state government. In 1994, Republicans won every single statewide office, led by incumbent Gov. George Voinvoich's absolute destruction of State Sen. Rob Burch in the Governor's race. Also, the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Howard Metzenbaum was lost to then-Lt. Gov. Mike DeWine, as the party had failed to groom a replacement, and ended up running Joel Hyatt against DeWine, his main qualification being that he was Metzenbaum's son-in-law. Republicans also took control of both houses of the General Assembly for the first time in decades.

1996 saw some reprieve as President Bill Clinton handily won the state as part of his successful campaign for re-election, but 1998 was another bad year. Although the Democratic ticket of former Attorney General Lee Fisher and then-City Councilman Mike Coleman kept it respectable at the top of the ticket, the party failed to field a strong candidate for U.S. Senate. Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Mary Boyle stood not the slightest chance against popular two-term Gov. George Voinovich, who claimed the U.S. Senate seat of the retiring Sen. Glenn. In eight years, Ohio had gone from a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators to a Republican Governor and two Republican senators. 1998 also saw the Republicans once again sweep all other statewide offices (Secretary of State, Treasurer of State, Auditor of State, and Attorney General).

2000 was another terrible year. To oppose incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine, the Democrats nominated Ted Celeste, whose sole political asset was that he is the brother of former two-term Democratic Gov. Richard Celeste (2006 saw Ted Celeste win a State Rep seat, if that gives you any frame of reference). DeWine cruised to re-election. Meanwhile, Vice President Al Gore abandoned Ohio and its then-21 electoral votes to George W. Bush.

2002 was rock bottom. Not only did the Republicans sweep all statewide offices for the third election in a row, they also consolidated their control over Ohio's legislators thanks to legistlative districts they redrew after the 2000 census. Ohio's congressional delegation was now controlled 12-6 by the Republicans, while they also controlled the Ohio House 62-37, and the Ohio Senate, 22-11. After this humbling defeat, Ohio Democratic Pary chair David Leland was finally forced out, having served eight years despite not seeing a single Democrat elected to a statewide office during his tenure.

2004 saw the worm start to turn a little bit. The Kerry/Edwards camp very nearly carried the state. I am convinced that had their not been a constitutional amendment on the ballot regarding gay marriage to drive Republican turnout to the polls, that Kerry would have won. However, Sen. George Voinovich was easily re-elected, carrying all 88 counties against State Sen. Eric Fingerhut.

So, considering this recent history, it is quite an accomplishment to be able to say that we have a Democratic governor, Ted Strickland. A Democratic Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner. A Democratic Treasurer of State, Richard Cordray. A Democratic Attorney General, Marc Dann. And, elected to Howard Metzenbaum's old seat in the U.S. Senate, Democratic congressman Sherrod Brown. Meanwhile, Democrats were able to pick up the congressional seat of the disgraced Rep. Bob Ney, with Zack Space's election. Meanwhile, Democrats also narrowed the Republican margin of control to 53-46 in the Ohio House, and 21-12 in the Ohio Senate. There were also several close calls at both the General Assembly and congressional level where a little bit better fundraising might have seen the Democratic candidate win.

Heading into 2008, we can look forward to a rebuilt Ohio Democratic Party under the tutelige of State Rep. Chris Redfern with Gov. Strickland and Sen. Brown able to assist candidate at all levels with fundraising. In addition to defending Rep. Space's seat, we can also build on the very close races in the 2nd and 15th congressional districts, as well as numerous State Rep. and State Senate seats where the Republican incumbent is term-limited out. And, we have a much better organized party to help a Democrat win Ohio's 20 electoral votes in the 2008 race for the White House.

My, how far we've come.


AberrantEquation said...

Assuming your logic is true...

I would argue that we still have no clue where we are.

We had a few really good candidates (e.g. Strickland)- but we always have good/better candidates- what made this year different?

Nick D said...

We haven't always had good candidates. In fact in 94, 98 and 02 we had horrible candidates. Mary Boyle? Rob Burch? Bryan Flannery? I refer you to my October 05 blog posting "A transformation in progress"