Rail Rejection

They say elections have consequences, and in Ohio we are beginning to see that.  One of the consequences of John Kasich’s narrow victory over Ted Strickland in the race for Ohio Governor will be the rejection of plans to establish a passenger rail corridor between Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.  Kasich has declared that the project is “dead,” and with Republicans in control over both Houses in the Ohio General Assembly he undoubtedly will get his way on that point.

The “3C Rail Corridor” project was going to be funded, in significant part, with $400 million in federal funds, as well as by ongoing state contributions.  Kasich’s point is that the project is a white elephant that will require future state budget expenditures that Ohio simply cannot afford in its current budget predicament.  The return of passenger rail to Ohio has long been a dream of many people, but others raised serious questions about the viability of the project because the trains would have been slower, costlier, and less direct than driving from Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland.

The federal funds are earmarked for the project, so  the $400 million must be returned to the U.S. government.  Wouldn’t it be a good start on our federal budget problems if other newly elected governors followed Kasich’s lead and returned federal funds for costly projects that don’t really make sense in their states?   In an era of trillion-dollar deficits, $400 million doesn’t seem like much, but — as I say when Kish and I discuss household budgeting — every little bit helps.

An Ohio Sweep And A National Message

Although there are still some races that are too close to call, the general outlines of the 2010 election are clear. It was a bad night for Democrats at the hands of voters who wanted to send a message — and did.

In Ohio, the entire slate of statewide offices went RepublicanJohn Kasich ousted Governor Ted Strickland in a very close contest.  I think Strickland was generally perceived to be a good man who was caught up in larger forces not of his making, and the fact that the contest was as close as it was reflected that.  Now Kasich will need to grapple with the state’s pressing budget issues.  The Republican sweep means that Republicans will control the state redistricting process and also means that other capable officeholders, such as Attorney General Richard Cordray, will be leaving office.

In federal races, the results in Ohio mirrored those in America as a whole.  The Republicans handily won the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Ohio and knocked off a number of Democratic incumbents in contests for seats in the House of Representatives.  Nationally, the Republicans picked up at least six Senate seats and 60 House seats.  Although some Democratic Senators, like Majority Leader Harry Reid, managed to hold on to their seats, a series of long-time Democratic Representatives went down to defeat.

The voters have served their message to their representatives, and the ball is now in President Obama’s court.  He will begin to respond at a press conference today, although the real test will come when the talking ends and the governing begins — and that includes the decisions that are made in any post-election, “lame duck” session of the current Congress.

I hope the President avoids the temptation to rationalize the results as a reflection of a “know-nothing” electorate or to blame the results on economic conditions caused by others and instead sincerely accepts the undeniable fact that American voters are not happy with the direction in which the President is steering this country and want him to change course.   They think he has overreached.  His challenge now will be to find areas of common ground with the voters and members of Congress who are worried about overspending, explosive growth in our national debt, and intrusive government.

Kilroy Was Here

ABC News is calling the 15th District here in Ohio for Republican Steve Stivers over incumbent Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy.  With 92 percent of the precincts reporting, Stivers leads Kilroy, 54 percent to 41 percent.

Kilroy, who was swept in to office with the Obama win in 2008, was a faithful proponent of the “health care reform” legislation and the House Democratic agenda.  She was also one of UJ’s favorites.

This is another race where a post mortem would be instructive.  In 2008, Kilroy won with a 2300-vote margin, but there were many more votes cast in 2008 than in 2010.  In fact, Stivers received fewer votes in 2010 than he did in his losing campaign in 2010.  In view of that, you have to wonder how much of Kilroy’s defeat was due to the “enthusiasm gap” and the lack of turnout by her core constituency.

ABC also has called the race in our district, the 12th, and has concluded that Republican Pat Tiberi will be returned to Congress.

Senator Portman

The networks are calling the Ohio U.S. Senate race for Republican Rob Portman over Democrat Lee Fisher.

No surprise there.  Portman has been leading in the polls by wide margins for weeks, and Fisher’s campaign has been pretty much invisible.  Fisher got attention only when he did a curious “24-hours-of-Lee-Fisher” event recently, and that was seen as more of a publicity stunt than anything else.

Portman will replace another Republican, George Voinovich, so the result is not a pick up for the Republicans.  Portman is likely more conservative than Voinovich, but he is not a Tea Party favorite, either.

On the Democrat side, I expect many Ohio Democrats are regretting that they didn’t nominate Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner rather than Fisher.  Brunner is more of a fresh face, whereas Fisher has been in Ohio politics for 30 years — and he didn’t run much of a campaign.

Watching The Returns

For the first time, we at Webner House are trying some live-blogging (not that anyone cares, I imagine).  Kish and I are camped out in front of the TV, channel surfing to watch the returns.  The polls haven’t closed yet in Ohio, but they have closed in several states.

When Richard and I went to vote this morning at about 7 a.m., our polling place was not very busy.  There were people at every station, but Richard and I did not need to wait for more than a few minutes.  Kish went to vote at about 4:45, and there was no real line then, either — although she had to wait for one or two people to finish up.  The Ohio Secretary of State apparently is talking about a light turnout.  The conventional wisdom, I think, would be that that bodes well for the Republicans.

What to watch when the polls close in Ohio?  The Strickland-Kasich race looks like a close one.  Here in central Ohio, we’ll be looking to see whether Steve Stivers can beat Mary Jo Kilroy in the 15th District.  And elsewhere in Ohio, is there really a chance that Dennis Kucinich might lose?

Keeping Track On Election Night

Let’s say you want to celebrate the end of this seemingly interminable mid-term campaign tomorrow night with an adult beverage.  You want to plop yourself down in front of the TV and watch the returns to see if your team is going to win.  You want to know whether the Democrats will hold on to the House and Senate, or whether discontent with the status quo will bring a “wave election” that sweeps Republicans to power.  But with so many congressional seats up for grabs, how will you know which team is doing well and which isn’t?

The New York Times‘ 538 blog has posted an excellent hour-by-hour guide that tracks key races based on the hours in which the polls close in various states.  The guide also tries to predict whether, based on the results, there is evidence of a big Republican wave.  So, for example, the polls will close at 6 p.m. in Indiana and Kentucky.  If you are following the Democrats, you will look to see whether they can win the seats in Indiana’s districts 8 and 9.  If you are hoping to detect a Republican tide, you’ll check out Kentucky district 3, to see whether the Republican candidate who has been trailing the incumbent has been lifted to victory.

In Ohio, where the polls close at 7:30, the guide lists several races that might indicates broader national trends.  For Democrats hoping to hang on to the House of Representatives, it is the 15th, where the polls indicate that incumbent Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy trails Republican challenger Steve Stivers.  For Republicans looking for a big night, it will be Ohio 18, a district just to the east of us, where incumbent Democrat Zach Space is trying to fend of Republican Bob Gibbs.

Our endless electoral campaigns are a pain, but election night TV-watching can be fun — like watching a bunch of football games to see whether you did well in the office pool.

An Election (And A Map) In The Balance

We’re now less than a week from Election Day, and the furious last-minute push of radio and TV ads, mailings, and get out the vote calling and canvassing is underway.

In Ohio, the marquee races are a gubernatorial contest between incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican challenger that appears to be close and a U.S. Senate race between Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Lee Fisher that polls are indicating will be a Portman blowout.  Along with those two headline races, Ohioans will vote for a full slate of statewide offices, Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court, the U.S. House of Representatives, and members of the Ohio Senate and Ohio House.  It will take a while to complete our ballots come Tuesday.

Although they haven’t commanded as much attention, two statewide races, for Secretary of State and Auditor, will have great long-term significance.  The occupants of those two offices, along with the Governor and one representative each of the Republican and Democratic parties, will form the Apportionment Board that will redraw the map of Ohio’s legislative districts after the 2010 census results are released.  The results of the Auditor’s race and the Secretary of State’s race therefore will determine whether the Ohio legislative districts are gerrymandered to benefit Democrats, or gerrymandered to benefit Republicans — or maybe, just maybe, drawn to reflect logical geographical and social factors in a way that results in more fairly competitive races for the Ohio House and Ohio Senate.  (But who am I kidding?)

Edited to correct my mistake in the original post, which stated that the Apportionment Board redraws Ohio’s congressional districts.  Instead, it redraws Ohio’s state legislative districts.  The redrawing of congressional districts is reserved for the Ohio General Assembly.  Thanks to the Philosopher King of the Fifth Floor for steering me in the right direction on an embarrassing error.