Primary Election Campaigns in Full Swing in Southern Ohio

In the 2nd Congressional district three Democratic candidates have filed for the May 8th primary election, each hoping to face off the Republican incumbent Brad Wenstrup. William R. Smith of Pike County has once again entered the race for this congressional seat and, from all appearances, is playing the part of a stalking horse.  Smith is a repeat loser, who never campaigns, yet, due to his common, familiar name, has fooled the district’s less informed Democratic party voters. Speculation swirls about, with suspicions falling on the backers of a Department of Energy nuclear waste storage site in Pike County.  Wenstrup is said to be backing the "waste dump" project.


Having previously been described as a "Zombie Candidate," and boosted in an unattributed "robocall," William R. Smith's entrance into the 2nd Congressional Democratic Party Primary has folks crying foul, and claims that Smith has been fielded as a "stalking-horse," meant to ensure the re-election of Brad Wenstrup in November's general election. H. R. Robertson's illustration of the term dates to 1875 and was captioned "Approaching the Fowl with Stalking-Horse." Original Source: Life on the Upper Thames, 197.  In public domain at Wikimedia Commons.


The two other Democratic primary candidates in the race hail from its western section, on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Dr. Janet Everhard and Jill Schiller hope to secure the lion’s share of the 2nd District’s votes, which are found in the western section.  But all experts familiar with the district know that the key to winning -- to defeating William R. Smith -- will be winning the eastern section, especially the cache of Democratic votes in Scioto and Adams county.

Ohioans will also get to vote on a referendum that aims to end partisan gerrymandering of the state’s Congressional Districts. Our broken system of drawing district lines is in need of reform as anyone familiar with the division of Scioto County into the 2nd and 6th Districts is a case in point.  If you live in Scioto County, the eastern half is included in a district that runs all the way up the Ohio River to north of Steubenville, while Portsmouth and the West Side are thrown in with communities down river all the way to Cincinnati.  In both cases, the largest share of voters are found at the very opposite end of their respective districts. If approved, the measure would apply to congressional redistricting following the 2020 U.S. Census.  Until then we are stuck with our gerrymandered maps and lack of equal representation in Washington.


Ohio's gerrymandered Second Congressional District runs from Hamilton and Clermont counties (the suburbs of Cincinnati) to Scioto county and the suburbs of Portsmouth.  The Sixth District is an even more agregitious example of partisan gerrymandering, running from Portsmouth's eastern suburbs in Scioto County all the way up the Ohio River to the southern outskirts of Youngstown in Mahoning county.  Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, The National Atlas of the United States of America.


Scioto County residents living in the 6th District will also have contested Democratic and Republican primaries. The incumbent, Republican Bill Johnson of Marietta, is being challenged by Robert J. Blazek of Bellaire.  And on the Democratic side, Werner Lange of Newton Falls and Shawna Roberts of Barnesville will seek their party’s ticket for the general election in November.

For US Senate, incumbent Sherrod Brown is unopposed.  He will face the winner of the Republican primary, which will pit U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci against businessman Mike Gibbons, and Melissa Ackison.  Renacci has claimed he decided to run against Brown thanks to the encouragement and backing of Donald Trump. Trump’s kiss may become as deadly as that of Judas.

The Democratic primary for Governor has a large field of contenders, though it is shrinking by the day. With this week’s withdrawal of Connie Pillich, Richard Cordray is quickly emerging as the front runner in a field of eight candidates.  Cordray has lined up support of much of the party’s old guard, Dennis Kucinch, the former mayor of Cleveland and Congressman, may represent the candidate with the strongest “progressive” record. William O’Neill, the former Ohio Supreme Court Justice, is out front championing the legalization of marijuana for its potential tax revenue, but his handling of the #MeToo movement may have hamstrung his campaign. The lesser-known candidates who have yet to make their mark include John Heavey, Larry Ealy, , Paul E. Ray, and Joe Schiavoni.

In the 90th Ohio House District, which covers Adams, Scioto, and the southwestern section of Lawrence county, two Democratic women have entered the race for the open seat that is being vacated by Dr. Terry Johnson, who has been term-limited out. Adrienne Buckler, an attorney from Portsmouth, will face off Joni Fearing, who has been a vocal critic of the mismanagement of the Portsmouth Atomic Reservation and plans for the Department of Energy's nuclear "waste dump" near Piketon.  The winner of this primary will face the winner in the Republican primary, which includes candidates Brian Baldridge, an Adams County Commissioner; Gina Hall Collinsworth, a Portsmouth area business woman; Scottie Powell a healthcare administrator from Portsmouth; and Jason Pizzulli a property realtor from Franklin Furnace.


Ohio's 90th House District covers all of Adams and Scioto County, plus the Hanging Rock and Ironton communities in southwestern Lawrence County.  Image Source:

While our eyes are on the prize — flipping the US House of Representatives and the Senate to Democratic majorities — the most anticipated local race in Scioto County involves the County Commission, where Democrat Trampas Puckett is running unopposed in the May primary.  Thus, in November, Puckett will take on the controversial Republican incumbent Bryan Davis.  Puckett, a carpenter union leader, may be new to electoral politics, but he’s not new to organizing. Like many other young labor supporters, Trampas cut his political teeth working with the Shawnee Labor Council in the successful referendum campaign to overturn a Republican anti-worker rights law known as SB-5. Drawing support from across party lines, Puckett is expected to unseat the increasingly unpopular Davis, who is known for his full-throated support of Donald Trump, his spreading of Russian election propaganda, the bashing of local college students as “snowflakes,” and what many view to be questionable business dealings and financial conflicts of interest.

In the state judicial races, for Ohio’s 4th Court of Appeals, Democrat Incumbent Judge Marie Hoover filed for re-election.  A self-identified moderate, she will face Kris Blanton and Jason Smith, who have the backing of the Republican Party. Additionally, in the 4th Court of Appeals (an open seat due to the retirement of Judge Harsha), Portsmouth attorney Valarie Gerlach will face two Republican candidates, Mike Hess and Katherine Madden.

In other statewide races, Steve Dettelbach is running unopposed as a Democrat for Ohio Attorney General; as is Kathleen Clyde for Secretary of State; and Zach Space for State Auditor.  There will be a democratic primary battle for State Treasurer with Neil Patel and Rob Richardson running.

And, lastly, for the Ohio Supreme Court, Democrats have field two qualified candidates:  Judge Michael Donnelly and Judge Melody Stewart.

The Southern Ohio Progressive Movement is joining with the Federated Democratic Women of Scioto County to host candidate forums in the lead up to the May 8th Primary.  Please take the opportunity to meet the candidates in person and decide for yourself who you will support.

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