A look at why Ohio Democrats won statewide races in only three of Ohio’s 88 counties

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — Republicans won big in Ohio, as they have in midterm elections going back to 1994 — with the exception of a Democratic wave year in 2006 — and Ohio Democrats got crushed in statewide races, from the top of the ticket on down.

Nan Whaley, former Dayton mayor, announces Cheryl Stephens as her running mate in the 2022 Ohio gubernatorial race.
Nan Whaley, former Dayton mayor, announces Cheryl Stephens as her running mate in the 2022 Ohio gubernatorial race. [Andy Chow | Statehouse News Bureau]
While redistricting helped candidates for Ohio House and Senate races, candidates for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and the Ohio Supreme Court win or lose based on the total number of votes statewide.

Former Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper noted Nan Whaley, who as the candidate for governor was the top of the statewide Democratic ticket, only won three of 88 counties — Athens, Cuyahoga and Franklin.

“There are counties that Democrats were winning 15 years ago that we are simply not winning. I mean Democrats are going to struggle having to win seven or eight counties of out 88 by enough to win. Obama won something like 19 counties,” Pepper said.

Pepper said small towns and rural areas where Democrats used to be competitive have left the party, and said Democratic leaders have to figure out how to combat that.

Chris Gibbs, a former Republican and farmer who worked for Democrats this year, agreed. He said those rural areas are where the party needs to focus its attention going forward.

“The Democratic message just isn’t getting through to rural America. And you know, actually, the far left, the progressive left, has pulled the party into kind of a dark place there. The good news is, if there is good news in here, is that Tim Ryan, in my view, is the candidate of the future,” Gibbs said.

Pepper said Ryan’s message seemed to resonate better with voters in some of those areas.

Unofficial totals from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office showed Ryan lost by about seven points. Compare that with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley who lost to Republican Governor Mike DeWine by a margin of 63% to 37%.

Pepper said Democrats need to focus on their message and raise enough money that they’ll be able to get their message out to rural parts of Ohio. Until that happens, he said it will be tough for Democrats to win statewide.