Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Leadership in the age of COVID-19: Who will take the reins in City Politics?

In case you missed it, the extended Ohio Primary Election is finally over.

It began in mid-February with early voting. It was supposed to end on March seventeenth with in-person voting. And then all virulent COVID-19 hell broke loose.

The entire election changed to vote by mail, culminating in a final accounting on April twenty-eighth. The results are in. Here are four takeaways from the final tally.

  1. Turnout was shockingly low. The turnout in Lucas County was around sixteen point seven per cent, which is a record low for a recent Presidential primary. Back in oh eight the turnout was forty-five point seven. In oh twelve, the last time there was an incumbent on the ballot, turnout fell, but only to twenty-two point nine. In twenty sixteen, turnout rebounded to thirty-eight point eight. The vagaries of the COVID-19 on-again, off-again election would likely account for some of that drop off. The fact that one party had an incumbent nominee, and the other party had a presumptive nominee by mid-March, could also have played a major role in suppressing turnout. Still, we heard tales of folks who requested mail-in ballots which were never received, and confusion about how to rectify such problems. The November election might be entirely vote by mail. Which means the LC Bored of Elections better figger this out, and quick.
  1. Lucas County voters prefer experience in public service over self-promotion and personal ambition. The race to replace Sheriff John Tharp on the D side of the ballot turned out to be no race at all. The best known and most qualified candidate, Oregon Police Chief Mike Navarre, blew away the competition in the Democratic field with a bit over fifty-seven per cent of the vote. His next closest challenger, the ever ambitious Toledo Councilman Gary Johnson, managed a mere sixteen and a half. With D voter turnout peaking in a Presidential election year, Navarre will be tough to beat in November. Meanwhile, Johnson will go back to plotting the next target for his public office ambitions.
  1. Wade’s signature initiative will be a heavy lift come November. Issue One, Wade’s attempt to raise Toledo’s income tax to pave roads, increase the number of safety officers, and provide universal pre-K education, received a mere forty-three per cent affirmative vote. Other tax initiatives, like the TARTA renewal levy, passed easily. Perhaps low turnout helps account for the loss. Or mebbe the collapse of the COVID-19 economy doomed the tax increase. Wade placed the initiative on the March ballot so it could be brought back in November if need be. But Issue One was defeated pretty soundly, and the economy is still pretty bad in these here parts. Will Wade scale his ambitious plan back for the November ballot? If not, he faces a tough task getting beyond the fifty per cent hurdle needed for passage.

  2. The new leader of the LC Dems has a big task. The Primary Election decided the members of the Central Committee for political parties in the County.  The Central Committees will meet within the next few weeks to choose Party chairs. The current chair of the LC Dems is not seeking re-election to the post. Whoever the Dem C Comm chooses to take his place must be someone with experience in winning elections and driving D voter turnout, because Lucas County is crucial to the outcome of the statewide Presidential election this November. 

It is likely a given that the Dem candidate will win the County vote in the General Election. The crucial factor in winning Ohio is their winning margin here in the Swamp. Consider. Candidate Barack Obama won Ohio in both twenty oh eight and twenty twelve. Both years he got around sixty-six percent of the vote in Lucas County. Conversely, Candidate Hillary Clinton won only about fifty-seven per cent of the Lucas County vote in twenty sixteen. She lost Ohio. For a Dem candidate, winning Ohio demands winning Lucas County big. 

GOP chair Mark Wagoner knows all this, and will be pushing to win as many R votes as possible. The capability of the new Dem chair will be crucial to the Dem outlook for winning the County handily, and thereby coming one step closer to winning Ohio this Fall. The new Dem chair must be experienced in rallying the troops for a winning field operation, driving massive turnout on the D side. The uncertainty of the nature of the election in the age of COVID-19 makes experience and the ability to put together a county-wide winning coalition even more important.

As the leadership of the County parties goes, so goes Ohio. And, possibly, the entire election outcome. The choice of new Dem leadership lies with the newly seated Dem Central Committee. With that choice, they may be determining the leadership of the US of A.

No pressure.

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