With the Ohio Primary coming up shortly on May 6th, I thought I would provide a quick round up of the primary races that will be taking place for the State Senate and State House. In some cases, these races will determine the quality of the Democratic candidate. In other cases, a win by a Tea Party supported candidate might help the Democratic candidate prevail in November.

For each race I discuss, I include a verbal description of the geographic location of the district; for maps, I highly recommend taking a look at Stephen Wolf's excellent set of maps for Ohio here. I also include the 2012 presidential vote, a list of who is running, and my analysis of the preferred outcome of the races from a Democratic perspective.

This roundup includes two types of races 1) Republican primaries where a win by a weaker (typically more ideologically extreme) candidate would make it easier for a Democrat to win in November, 2) races where a Democrat or Republican is sure (or near sure) to win in November, but the primary will determine the extent to which the Republican is conservative or the Democrat is progressive.

The roundup begins after the fold.

Ohio Senate Races:

District 3 (Republicans)
Who's Running?: Incumbent GOP State Sen. Kevin Bacon, Tea Party Challenger Kevin Solveson
District Location: Franklin County (Columbus Suburbs)
2012 Presidential Vote: 54.5% Obama, 44% Romney
Who Do Democrats want to win?: From the perspective of winning the seat in November, Solveson would be the better candidate. With a some dude(ette) candidate on the Democratic side due to a petition mess-up, having an extreme Tea Party candidate like Solveson win is pretty much the Dems only chance at having a shot at winning this seat in November.

District 5 (Democrats)
Who's Running?: Dayton School Board Member Joe Lacey, former Tipp City Mayor and current Council Member Dee Gills, Businessman Tom Matthew
District Location: Parts of Montgomery County (Dayton), Preble County, and Darke County
2012 Presidential Vote: 53.1% Obama, 45.3% Romney
Who Do Democrats want to win?: Both Lacey and Gillis could be credible candidates in November against incumbent Republican Bill Beagle. Gillis has raised more money than Lacey (outraising him $13,579 to $5,087 according to the pre-primary filing with the Ohio Secretary of State) and seems to have the support of the Democratic establishment. Among those contributing to Gillis were the State Democratic Party campaign fund and the campaign fund for State Senate Majority Leader Joe Schiavoni. The third candidate, Tom Matthew, raised little money.

District 5 (Republicans)
Who's Running?: Incumbent GOP State Sen. Bill Beagle, Challenger Julie Busby
District Location: Parts of Montgomery County (Dayton), Preble County, and Darke County
2012 Presidential Vote: 53.1% Obama, 45.3% Romney
Who Do Democrats want to win?: Busby would give Dems a much better chance of winning in November, but doesn't seem to have much of a campaign presence.

District 25 (Democrats)
Who's Running?: former State Rep. Ed Jerse, former State Rep. Kenny Yuko, former Cleveland Board of Elections Chair/ state NAACP voter fund director Thaddeus Jackson
District Location: part of Cuyahoga County (Cleveland area), part of Lake County
2012 Presidential Vote: 74.1% Obama, 25% Romney
Who Do Democrats want to win?: The reason I mention this race is because some Democrats are concerned by Jerse's endorsement by a pro-life group. Something I find a bit troubling about Yuko is his support for bringing casinos to Ohio, but there don't seem to be any other major distinctions between the candidates that I could find. This seat is currently held by State Senator Nina Turner, who is running for Secretary of State.

District 27 (Republicans):
Who's Running?: Incumbent GOP State Sen. Frank LaRose, Tea Party Challenger Caleb Davenport
District Location: Parts of Wayne, Stark, and Summit Counties (Contains Suburbs of Akron and a lot of rural areas)
2012 Presidential Vote: 54% Romney, 44.5% Obama
Who Do Democrats want to win?: That's a tough call. A win by Tea Partier Davenport would give Democrats a shot in this 54% Romney district, but not a great shot. Is it worth losing a fairly mainstream Republican like LaRose, who has sponsored a proposed ENDA-like bill for Ohio? Also, LaRose could be a credible candidate for higher office in the future so a primary loss to Davenport could help Democrats down the road in other ways.

District 29 (Republicans):
Who's Running?: Incumbent Republican State Sen. Scott Oelslager, Tea Party Challenger Dennis Harbert
Location: Stark County (Canton)
2012 Presidential Vote: 49.9% Obama, 48.3% Romney
Who Do Democrats want to win?: The fairly moderate Oelslager, who has gotten campaign contributions from traditionally Democratic groups such as unions, is a safe bet to hold the seat in November. Harbert would be no better than even money against Democratic candidate Connie Rubin. In terms of winning the seat, a Harbert primary win is the Democrats only real shot at the seat and unlike the neighboring 27th district, a Tea Party win here would immediately send this seat to the Toss Up column.

State House Races

District 10 (Democrats):
Who's Running?: Incumbent Democratic State Rep. Bill Patmon, former Cleveland Council member/ former State Rep. Eugene Miller
Location: Cuyahoga County (Cleveland area)
2012 Presidential Vote: 89.6% Obama, 9.6% Romney
Who Do Democrats want to win?: Patmon has annoyed some Democrats by siding with Republicans on a number of issues. To provide one example, Patmon co-sponsored the Ohio version of the religious freedom bill that Jan Brewer vetoed in Arizona. A lot of Democrats would certainly like to see Patmon defeated in the primary, although Miller's fundraising hasn't been very strong.

District 12 (Democrats):
Who's Running?: Incumbent Democratic State Rep. John Barnes, Jr., former Pepper Pike Council Member Jill Miller Zimon
Location: Cuyahoga County (Cleveland area)
2012 Presidential Vote: 84% Obama, 15.5% Romney
Who Do Democrats want to win?: Like Patmon, Barnes has irked Democratic leaders for sometimes siding with Republicans. Barnes may be in more danger than Patmon, as Zimon has done well with fundraising and has been endorsed by Democratic US Senator Sherrod Brown.

District 19 (Republicans):
Who's Running?: Incumbent GOP State Rep. Anne Gonzales, Tea Party Challenger Meta Hahn
Location: Franklin County (Columbus Suburbs)
2012 Presidential Vote: 50.6% Romney 50.6%, 48% Obama
Who Do Democrats want to win?: Hahn would give Democrat Michael Johnston a much better chance of winning the seat in November, probably turning the seat into a Toss Up.

District 24 (Republicans):
Who's Running?: Incumbent GOP State Rep. Stephanie Kunze, Tea Party backed architect Patrick Manley
Location: Franklin County (Columbus Suburbs)
2012 Presidential Vote: 50.2% Romney 50.6%, 48.3% Obama
Who Do Democrats want to win?: Manley would give Democrat Kathy Hoff a better chance at winning this district in November.

District 28 (Republicans)
Who's Running?: Blue Ash Council Member and former Mayor Rick Bryan, Tea Party favorite Jonathan Dever, CPA Kimberly Angel Clark
Location: Hamilton County (Cincinnati suburbs)
2012 Presidential Vote: 51.1% Romney, 47.7% Obama
Who Do Democrats want to win? Based on what I have read, it seems like the race is between Bryan, who is campaigning as a mainstream Republican, and Dever, who seems to be the Tea Party favorite. Clark seems to be the third wheel is this race. The winner of this race will face ex-OSU Student Body President Democrat Micah Kamrass, who has an impressive $96,000 cash on hand. The more conservative Dever would likely be the preferred candidate for Democrats this fall, as Tea Party-backed candidates have failed to oust the current occupant of this seat, Connie Pillich who is the Democratic candidate for State Treasurer this fall against incumbent Josh Mandel.

District 35 (Democrats)
Who's Running?: Incumbent State Rep. Zack Milkovich, Akron Assistant Prosecutor Greta Johnson
Location: Summit County (part of Akron and all of Barberton)
2012 Presidential Vote: 65.7% Obama, 32.5% Romney
Who Do Democrats want to win?: Iconoclast incumbent Milkovich has rubbed party leaders the wrong way on a number of issues. For example, in this audio from the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board interview Milkovich seems at least semi-favorable towards charter schools and it is mentioned that he voted for a pro-pay day lender piece of legislation. Milkovich also apparently was a co-sponsor of the Ohio religious freedom bill before it was quashed (what is it with Ohio Dems and that bill?) Milkovich also ran for a local Clerk of Courts position (which, despite seeming to be an inferior position, actually pays more than the State Rep. position) and lost by a wide margin to an incumbent Republican. Challenger Greta Johnson has been endorsed by the Democratic mayors of Barberton and Akron, as well as the county executive and a several local newspapers. Establishment Democrats, as well as progressives, would clearly like to see Johnson defeat Milkovich.

District 47 (Republican)
Who's Running?: Incumbent  GOP State Rep. Barbara Sears, Tea Partier Scott Allegrini
Location: Parts of Fulton and Lucas (Toledo) counties
2012 Presidential Vote: 54% Romney, 44% Obama
Who Do Democrats want to win?: There's no Democrat here, so the winner of the primary wins in November. As a strong supporter of the Medicaid expansion, it would be nice to see Sears win to show that support for the program does not entail political death for anyone who supports it. A win by Allegrini might intimidate Republicans from voting for a permanent Medicaid expansion in the future. Thus, while this race has little to do with Democratic political success, it does have import for progressive policymaking.

District 54 (Republican)
Who's Running?: Indicted Incumbent GOP State Rep. Peter Beck, Accountant/GOP Activist Mary Jo Kubicki, Real Estate Developer Paul Zeltwanger.
Location: Butler and Warren Counties (Cincinnati suburbs-aka Ohio's Waukesha County)
2012 Presidential Vote: 64.8% Romney 64.8% 33.9% Obama
Who Do Democrats want to win? Incumbent Peter Beck in under criminal indictment and has been asked to resign resign by a number of Ohio GOP officials. Fans of good government should certainly want to see Beck lose the primary. Should Beck somehow win the primary and make it to the general, it would be an interesting test to see if this district is too conservative to elect a Democrat against a Republican facing these charges. (I hear echoes of the Jefferson vs. Cao race from 2008.) Democrats do have a candidate for this seat named Rick Smith.

District 76 (Republican):
Who's Running? Sarah LaTourette (daughter of the former Congressman), Tea Partier Linda O'Brien (write-in candidate)
Location:Portage and Geauga Counties (Northeast Ohio)
2012 Presidential Vote: Romney 58%, Obama 40%  
Who Do Democrats want to win?: With State Rep. Matt Lynch vacating this seat to run against Congressman Dave Joyce, this seat features another Tea Party versus establishment battle. The likely victory of Sarah LaTourette is likely to move this seat's representation more to the middle as Sarah LaTourette shares the same general ideology as her father. I suppose in the unlikely event of an O'Brien win Democrats might be able to make the seat competitive, but I view that as unlikely as this district has sent the quite conservative Matt Lynch to Columbus several times.

District 79 (Republican):
Who's Running? Businessman Argeri Lagos, Tea Partier and losing 2012 County Commissioner Candidate Kyle Kohler, Businessman and NRA backed Rick Chimento
Location: part of Clark County (Springfield)
2012 Presidential Vote: Obama 50.2%, Romney 48.2%
Who Do Democrats want to win?: The race seems to be between Kohler and Lagos, as Chimento has raised and spent little money. Kohler lost a race for county commissioner in 2012 by a few hundred votes; however this district is about 4 points to the left of the county as a whole so it is likely he lost this district by a bit more than he did countywide. Lagos seems to be running as more of a mainstream Republican and has endorsements from Ross McGregor, the incumbent Republican for this seat who also comes from the more mainstream part of the GOP. Kohler, for his part, is backed by more conservative groups as well as conservative Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan. Ultimately, Kohler would probably be easier for the Democratic candidate, Sheriff's Deputy Darrell Jackson, to defeat in November.

District 88 (Republican)
Who's Running?: Write-in Candidates Rhonda Damschroder (wife of the current State Rep.), Bill Reineke Jr. (a car dealer), and Ballville Township Trustee Richard Geyer
Location: Sandusky County (Cedar Point) and part of Seneca County
2012 Presidential Vote: Romney 49.4%, Obama 48.1%
Who Do Democrats want to win?: Quite possibly the strangest race in Ohio, not a single candidate running actually appears on the ballot. After a petition fiasco for incumbent Rep. Rex Damschroder, a number of write-ins joined the race. A quirk in Ohio election law meant that Rex Damschroder wasn't eligible to run for the seat as a write-in, so his wife Rhonda is running instead, the idea being that she steps aside if she wins the nomination and then the party committee will name Rex to run in her place. (That name will be even more fun to write in than Leeza Murkowsky!) However, car dealer Bill Reineke has raised $59k, much more than Damschroder.

Ultimately, the best Democrats can hope for in this race is a close vote between the candidates that results in an extended vote count. This one won't be decided on election day and the longer it goes, the more it seems likely to help Democrat William Young (also a write in!).

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