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Seeking Second Term, DeWine Looks Fine

Plus a look at missed opportunities for Democrats; a redistricting roundup; and, courage under pressure.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine
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Seeking Second Term, DeWine Looks Fine: Donald Trump has made life more complicated for a number of Republican governors. Several who got on the former president’s bad side for one reason or another decided not to run for U.S. Senate seats this year, including Arizona’s Doug Ducey, Maryland’s Larry Hogan, Vermont’s Phil Scott and New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu. In addition, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker opted not to run for re-election against a primary field that already included a Trump acolyte.

But the GOP governors who are seeking second terms over Trump’s opposition seem to be doing just fine. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has enjoyed healthy polling leads over former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, whom Trump encouraged to run and has campaigned for. A poll released Tuesday by the Atlanta Journal Constitution showed Kemp up, 53 percent to 27 percent. If those numbers hold up, Kemp would win an outright majority in the May 24 primary and avoid a runoff.

Kemp’s sin in Trump’s eyes was signing off on the 2020 election results, when Joe Biden narrowly carried the state. Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, didn’t anger Trump in the same way — Trump won Ohio — but he appears to be on track to win renomination against a pair of Republicans claiming the Trumpist mantle.

DeWine drew criticism from some conservatives by taking a fairly aggressive approach toward mitigation strategies early in the pandemic. But DeWine lifted health restrictions in the state nearly a year ago. “The height of the COVID wars, at least here in Ohio, seems to have died down a little bit,” says Mack Mariani, a political scientist at Xavier University in Cincinnati. “People have moved on to other issues, namely the economy.”

The primary is next Tuesday. DeWine got lucky with his opponents — or rather, the number of them. He’s still sometimes knocked as a RINO (Republican in name only), but he’s facing not one but two major challengers who say they’ll be more Trump-loyal than DeWine: former Congressman Jim Renacci and farmer and businessman Joe Blystone. Blystone appears to have struck a chord with many voters, but his campaign is underfunded. “I would say that Gov. DeWine is looking strong since his two major opponents, Renacci and Blystone, are splitting the anti-DeWine vote right now,” says Robert Taft, a former GOP governor.

DeWine is polling in the low 40s. That’s not great for an incumbent, but it puts him well ahead of his challengers, who are both polling in the 20s. DeWine has sought to appeal to voters through his performance on the economy — tirelessly touting the announcement earlier this year of a $20 billion Intel plant — and running ads highlighting his record opposing abortion. It’s been difficult for either Renacci or Blystone to gain serious traction, especially since Ohio’s Senate contest has drawn a lot more political attention, including a Trump rally last weekend.

“Ultimately, it takes a lot of money and a lot of attention to defeat a sitting governor in a primary,” Mariani says. “It feels awfully late in the game for either of the other two candidates to really break out. It seems almost too late.”

Missed Opportunities for Democrats: DeWine will be favored in the fall against whomever wins the Democratic primary: former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley or former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. The race has gotten a bit nasty, with Cranley running an ad asking, “Who’s the best Democrat to beat DeWine and lead Ohio’s comeback? The mayor whose city is getting worse?”

Ohio is an old battleground state that’s been growing redder. Arizona, by contrast, has long been run by Republicans but has lately been looking more purple, with Biden barely winning there in 2020. Democrats fell just short in their hopes of taking control of the state House, with the GOP holding onto a 31-29 majority.

Republicans came away from the redistricting process with a favorable map, however. This year, Democrats failed to recruit candidates for all the state House seats that appear conceivably within their reach, meaning they’re essentially guaranteed to remain in the minority even before anyone has voted.
New York State Capitol, Albany, New York.
New York State Capitol, Albany, New York. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Redistricting Roundup: Speaking of redistricting, some states still haven’t finished their process, while others continue to have their maps thrown out in court.

On Wednesday, the New York State Court of Appeals, that state’s highest court, found that the Democratic-controlled Legislature had defied a voter-approved ban on partisan gerrymandering. Its congressional map would likely have led to four fewer Republicans in Congress, giving Democrats a 22-4 advantage in the state delegation. The court directed a special master to draw new lines.

On Tuesday, a county judge struck down the Kansas congressional map, finding it an illegal gerrymander. The map would likely lead to a GOP sweep of the state’s four House seats and the judge ruled that it “intentionally and effectively dilutes minority votes in violation of the Kansas Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, will appeal.

In Ohio, the state Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected maps drawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature as illegal partisan gerrymanders. Last week, a federal court said that the state could use one of those maps if the redistricting commission, which is also GOP-controlled, fails to come up with a fresh plan by May 28. Some observers questioned why the court would permit a map rejected by the state Supreme Court. In the meantime, the League of Women Voters and other voting rights groups asked the state Supreme Court on Tuesday to hold commissioners in contempt for seeming to run out the clock in hopes the earlier map will be restored.
Erin Maye Quade,in a November 2017 photo.
Erin Maye Quade,in a November 2017 photo. (TNS)
Courage Under Pressure: Part of the legend of Theodore Roosevelt stems from his delivering an 84-minute speech in 1912 just after he’d been shot in an assassination attempt. That legendary ability to perform under duress came to mind this weekend, when Erin Maye Quade not only gave a speech but endured a lengthy question-and-answer period despite being in active labor and clearly in pain.

Maye Quade was seeking the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement for a state Senate seat at a convention. She fell behind her opponent, Justin Emmerich, who was short of the 60 percent vote needed. Needing to go to the hospital, Maye Quade withdrew from the race before a second vote was held. Emmerich said afterwards he would have postponed the proceedings had he been formally asked, but neither he nor party officials moved to do so.

Any other medical issue presumably would have triggered a time out. “While we were in awe of her strength, it was actually horrifying to watch a woman go through this vulnerable experience with nobody with the power to do so stepping in and putting an end to it,” said Emma McBride, political director of Women Winning and a Maye Quade supporter.

Maye Quade gave birth to a baby girl about 12 hours later.
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Alan Greenblatt is the editor of Governing. He can be found on Twitter at @AlanGreenblatt.
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