Tim Fulton  00:11

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. This week, at the risk of sounding like a broken record that you have heard before voting is important. On the occasion of next week’s midterm election, David de Witte, the editor in chief of the Ohio Capitol journal, sat down with me to discuss how the political landscape has changed in the last two years, the Ohio Supreme Court races and the issues that will be decided as a result of them, the Ohio governor’s race, of course, the US Senate race and why it is so important to vote. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com. Also, the confluence cast is on Patreon. Find out how to support this podcast on our website, the confluence cast.com Or at patreon.com/confluence. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here virtually with David DeWitt, the editor in chief of the Ohio capital journal, David, how are you, sir?

David DeWitt  01:28

I’m doing well. Thanks for having me, Tim. Absolutely. Long,

Tim Fulton  01:32

longtime listeners of the confluence cast will remember we talked about the state of Ohio politics in an in person interview happened to be I just looked at my email February 2020. With a slightly different time that was can you give actually to start just a high level where where are Hawaii geopolitics and how have they changed? And how have they not changed in that time?

David DeWitt  01:56

Well, we’ve seen a lot you know, starting in March 2020. We had COVID really gearing up here in the United States. And we started having our lock downs. And we saw all of that play out that summer was the George Floyd protests. And so we saw a variety of things happen. We saw attacks from the legislature on the governor’s authority over emergencies. We saw attacks from the legislature on lockdowns on vaccinations on all of that stuff. We’ve also in the last year and a couple of months seen a whole redistricting process play out after the last US census, the redrawing of Ohio’s maps are for our state house and states and as well as our congressional delegation. All of that culminated in a battle with the Ohio Supreme Court, a bipartisan majority on the Ohio Supreme Court shot down every map that was proposed and passed by Republicans along party lines. So all of the maps ended up being declared unconstitutional, a total of I think, seven times by the court in seven different rounds. Eventually, a federal court forced the voters to use one of those partisan gerrymandered unconstitutional maps and and then the congressional case drag your drug gone so long that we were forced to use those as well. So now, we’re looking at November 8 election where Ohio voters will go to the polls and cast ballots and districts that have been declared unconstitutional by a bipartisan Supreme Court numerous times. And we’re going to have a whole other redistricting process coming up next year, because these are only one time shots because this still hasn’t been resolved. So between COVID redistricting battles over health department public health, in the economy that’s taken wild undulations. There’s been a lot happening since we last talked. It was a pretty exciting place these days. I guess not. I don’t know that it’s explicitly different from other places. But certainly the redistricting has been a unique thing to watch play out. And along those lines, just to sort of skip ahead, we’re talking today about the statewide issues that voters are going to be voting on those are specifically elections or re elections of folks, that redistricting process is going to be addressed by a newly seated Ohio Supreme Court. Can you talk about sort of what first of all what’s inherently going to change based on losing one of the justices and how they stood on things? And then where we stand with the the three races that are coming for that? Yeah, absolutely. So right now you have a four three Republican majority Ohio Supreme In court, where party affiliation was never listed on the ballot previously. What’s happening now is Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is forced to retire due to age under Ohio Revised Code. And so she has to step away. Maureen O’Connor has been the swing vote on the court, especially in these redistricting cases, but a number of other cases too. She has, in the redistricting cases decided with the majority with the Democrats on the court to strike down these maps. Now she’s going to be out because of this forced retirement running to replace her our two current justices, Jennifer Brunner, Democrat, and Republican Sharon Kennedy. And for the first time ever, their party affiliation will be listed on the ballot this year. That was a change that the legislature made for this election cycle and going forward. And so they’re going to battle for the election as chief justice if one of them loses, they’ll just resume the spot that they already had in the court. And then you have two other Republican justices who are running for re election. This is Pat de wine, and Patrick Fischer. And they’re they’re facing challenges from Democrats, Terry Jameson, and Maryland zydus. And who are the appellate court judges. And so depending on what happens if the Republicans who are currently according to a poll that came out today, from Baldwin Wallace, the Ohio Palace poll, all of the Republicans in these three races are leading by between seven and eight points. So seven points for Kennedy a points for Pat Fisher, and seven points for the wine. And so you what you could end up with is another four, three Republican to democratic court, but this time without the swing vote without Marino contracting as a swing vote. And so it’ll just be a hard line for three Republican Supreme Court if these polls are indicative of what happens on election day. And so there are a lot of issues at stake with this, though. That’s why the Supreme Court raises are so huge. Not only is redistricting going to be coming to a head but Ohio’s current abortion ban that’s being challenged at Hamilton County Court is most likely to make its way to the Ohio Supreme Court. And Ohio Republicans are have been talking about making plans to do a full abortion ban, either in lame duck or early in 2023. That surely will be challenged and will make its way to the Ohio Supreme Court. And then just a whole slew of other laws, you know, really running the gamut from everything but the issues that really matter to Ohioans, according to the polling, you know, gun violence prevention and gun laws, LGBT two laws, all those laws that lawmakers are, and there’s public health stuff, too, as far as the governor and executive battle between the legislature on who really controls public health policy that could also come before the court. So these three raises have enormous consequence.

Tim Fulton  08:20

And given that we’re electing a governor, and then we’re also electing a net new senator, these races tend to not be as much in the spotlight, right.

David DeWitt  08:31

Right. Yeah, that the oxygen has really been taken out of the room by the rent Ryan Vance. battled to replace Rob Portman in the US Senate. And that’s because it’s the tightest race. I mean, not only is it a very significant race as to the makeup of the US Senate, but that race has been pulling in a dead heat really within the margin of error in almost every poll that’s been run with a margin of error runs around 3.5 to four percentage points. So it’s either Vance up by two or three Ryan up by two or three in every poll. So that one’s really tight. And most of the other races are not I mentioned the Ohio Supreme Court races, there’s, you know, seven, eight points that’s a solid lead outside of the margin of error. Mike DeWine has been consistently pulling for reelection in you know, 1314 15 points in this Baldwin Wallace poll. He was pulling 17 points ahead. And it looks like he’s, he really has a big lead. He has this 33 point lead among independents over former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, his Democratic challenger, Edie but Ryan also has a lead among independents by seven points. So you’re gonna see some split ticket voting. Ryan to wine voters,

Tim Fulton  09:57

right? Well, that doesn’t Feel that weird here, given that when Sherrod Brown was reelected, he was the only statewide? Yes. Only statewide Democrat on the ballot that one that night, it was a, you know, not really a very fun party to be at.

David DeWitt  10:14

Right. And there was actually two they did. They were not listed on the ballot as Democrats, but two of the Ohio Supreme Court races that year went to Democrats, Melody Stewart and Michael Donnelly. And but they weren’t didn’t have party affiliation. So that made it really about slate cards and who was informing their voters who to vote for? Neither is party affiliation. So that changes the whole game of the Supreme Court races.

Tim Fulton  10:45

Interesting. Can you dig a little bit into what are what’s the sort of the narrative around? I want to save Ryan Vance for the end. But talk through what’s the narrative around the governor’s race? I’m thinking specifically about the fact that there hasn’t been a debate and the issues that each of the candidates are sort of bringing to the fore as issues that they’re running on?

David DeWitt  11:10

Yeah. So Mike DeWine is running mostly on his record of and you know, he’s pointing to his various initiatives as governor. A lot of the stuff that he’s done administratively, what he would call his record of, you know, steady hand at the wheel, that type of stuff, playing into his incumbency advantage, which is where you get to distribute a lot of money to a lot of communities, most of its coming from ARPA, but you know, he’s doing these initiatives. And really, his goal right now, politically, because he has these 1314 Point leads, is to just kind of keep his head down and not mess up. And that’s why he doesn’t really want to debate because the way debates are all about getting clips and something go viral, you know, something newsworthy, and the wind doesn’t really want to make a lot of splashes right now, but he wants to coach through the next two weeks. Wally has shifted her messaging several times, you know, throughout the campaign trying to see where she can make a dent. So she’s, she’s gone after the public corruption stuff, the first energy bailout political bribery scandal, which has implicated the governor directly but it’s implicated a lot of people he’s around the head surrounded himself with, and people he’s appointed such as Sam Randazzo to the Ohio’s main utility regulators. So she’s gone after that corruption stuff. And then after the Supreme Court decision in the dobs case, this summer, she’s really been hammering him on the abortion rights issue. And the legislation that he’s signed that has caused these really terrible heartbreaking situations that we’ve reported on the Ohio Capitol journal, women who wanted their pregnancies going under these terrible conditions where they’re forced to endure instead of getting medical treatment that they need. And then obviously, child rape victims who have had to flee the state to get medical care. And so she’s hammering him that on that stuff, and she’s also been hammering him a lot on his refusal to debate 85% of Ohioans are there about want debates, they support debates. So she’s been calling him out a lot for not being willing to face the public and be accountable for the laws that he’s signed and the things that he’s done. So whether it’s making an impact, his his poll numbers have stayed pretty consistent. So I expect that he’ll just continue to kind of go to friendly ice cream socials and, you know, shake hands kiss babies, and, you know, ride

Tim Fulton  14:04

it up. Well, and again, it’s the power of the incumbency, right. Yeah. Whereas given the Rob Portman announced that he wasn’t going to run again, I think, mid last year, and now we have two folks who are running for this empty seat on the United States Senate. What has been and as you said, they’re sort of polling within the margin of error. It also feels like there’s a new story every day. Can you give a lay of the land of where we are, first of all, for folks that just have no idea background on the two candidates?

David DeWitt  14:36

Yeah. Okay. So Tim, Tim Ryan’s a longtime Mahoning Valley, Congressman, US Congressman, I don’t want to miss characterize his number of years, but it’s been since the early 2000s Since he’s been in office there. He ran for president in early in early part of the 2020 cycle. He’s challenged Nancy Pelosi for speakership. He’s kind of made some of those bigger splashes on the national stage. And other than that he’s just been, you know, the Mahoning Valley’s congressman in Ohio. One of the bigger names in Ohio democratic politics. He’s been being encouraged to run statewide for a while. JD Vance. On the other hand, he made his name writing the book called Hill Hillbilly Elegy that people might be familiar with. movie was made out of it more recently. And he came for a went to Yale and wrote that book, he ended up moving out to Silicon Valley becoming a venture capitalist for a while falling in with Peter Thiel, apparently and that crowd, came back to Ohio, decided to run for Senate had TEALS backing financially. Thiel is a billionaire tech executive. And he ended up after getting a Donald Trump endorsement late in the primary. He ended up pulling the primary off the spring, it was a big Republican field primary is facing former treasurer Josh Mandel, among others, businessman, Mike Gibbons and others, but Vance ended up pulling it off narrowly in the end. And yeah, so that’s kind of the background of both of them. As far as the pitches that they’re making. Yeah, it’s been an interesting so Tim Ryan has really been leaning into kind of, it’s almost it’s a page out of Sherrod Brown’s book with his own kind of twist on it. He’s really trying to appeal to the you know, the blue collar Ohio every man type of sensibility. He’s he’s making ads where he’s saying, you know, culture wars, I’m not your guy. If you want to talk about American workers, this is what I think we need. He’s, he’s taken on trade policy. He talks about China a lot and trade policy and looking out for Ohio workers. He talks a lot about how he there’s been electric vehicle investment in the Mahoning Valley, and it’s working getting that done. And he’s really trying to send a message of regeneration of these forgotten about Midwestern areas. And that message, there was a good article that we ran today from ProPublica kind of talking about this stuff. And, and Democrat national Democrats have been kind of doing this type of stuff with the inflation reduction act with some of the investments of the infrastructure bill and things like this. They are they are putting investments back into these regions and trying to build something but the whole point of the ProPublica article was, is it too late? Is it too late for people like Tim Ryan to be able to win statewide in places like Ohio, on the back of such investments? So it’s I think that he is considering the fact that Tim Ryan has basically been going it alone. He does not have national support from national Democrats. On the other side, JD Vance has gotten nearly $38 million dollars from worth of ads paid for by Mitch McConnell. Tim Ryan has not had anything like that, although there is some late game crippling and like $3 million ad buy here 4 million that by their by National Democratic groups, but not official ones. Anyway. The Vance campaign, meanwhile, is focusing on he’s been focused a lot on immigration, he has been focused a lot on his his views of why places you know, a lot of areas of Ohio have been kind of left behind. And he’s had that support come in. And so at this point, the the fundraising, the most notable thing about it is the outside spending.

Tim Fulton  19:12

And where that influence is coming from and that basically, if this were a game of spending, JD Vance should be polling much better than he is.

David DeWitt  19:24

Yeah, Tim’s Tim’s punching above his weight as far as that goes, Yeah, because he’s facing a lot of spending right now. So it’d be pulling it around even and sometimes, you know, he has the advantage sometimes bands does. It is a real contest and a lot of national Democrats have written Ohio off. They saw Trump win here twice by points. They, frankly, you know, some of the things that I’ve read recently I think Tim Ryan, even said this was they don’t think that the demographics of Ohio are in democratic advantage. They see. They look at the population with college degrees. And they look at this suburban versus rural, and they look at those demographics. And it just sounds like they’ve they’ve written Ohio off. And but Tim’s bet a lot of people have been very impressive, impressed by Tim’s message of the campaign that he’s running. And you see it when you’re talking to people like just everyday people. Some of my moderate republican family members are very impressed by Tim Ryan’s ads. And so you can to see where these split voters would come from.

Tim Fulton  20:50

As a reporter taking sort of a 10,000 foot view. Are you do you feel like you’re just following a horse race? Or is this? Obviously you’re passionate about politics, right. But what’s standing out to you right now as the important thing to look at?

David DeWitt  21:08

The first thing I mean, the whole idea that I have about being a reporter and a journalist is that we are here to provide citizens with the information they need to make informed smart decisions come election time. And as a citizen of Ohio, these elections are actually far more important than the Presidential insofar as the state policy and law impacts your lives a lot more. And this year has a lot more on the ballot, it has races for not just Governor statewide, but auditor, Attorney General Secretary of State which runs our elections, and treasurer, as well as the three Ohio Supreme Court races. So the these elections, you know, 2018 2022 2026. Next, these are elections that really control the direction that Ohio specifically is going in. And so I want as a reporter to provide the best information that people can have to make informed, responsible decisions for those elections. But the point that I would want to hammer home to listeners is, people have to know how critical these elections are, and they gotta go vote, like you gotta get, you know, it’s, it’s great to vote yourself, but you really got to tell your friends and family to vote to because it’s much more important and impactful than a lot of the other elections.

Tim Fulton  22:37

Yeah, absolutely. David, I want to give you the opportunity. I don’t know if we did it two and a half years ago, but I end Most interviews by asking two questions. One, what do you think Columbus is doing? Well, and then the reverse of that. What do you think Columbus is not doing? So well?

David DeWitt  22:56

Columbus is an amazing food town. That’s where I’m gonna go is one of my favorite things about Columbus. I travel a decent amount. And I am really impressed with Columbus’s variety and quality good dining everything from you know little bakeries like Dan the baker, whatever. To like really good, fancy restaurants. So to just like the the mom and pop hole in the wall restaurants, there’s a lot of good food in Columbus. It’s a good foodie city.

Tim Fulton  23:31

Excellent. And then what are we not doing so well?

David DeWitt  23:36

Oh, we need rail. We need rail. We you need to if the city of Columbus is going to take up almost the entirety of Franklin County, you need to get people into and out of the city center easily. You look at a very similar city like Charlotte, North Carolina, and they have this cheap easy passenger rail that takes you right into town and right out if Columbus had and there’s an appetite for it. People want it and people will use it. If Columbus had good rail into and out of the city and around a little corridors in the city where you need it. It would be a game changer.

Tim Fulton  24:14

There you go. David, thank you for your time.

David DeWitt  24:17

Thank you, Tim. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for having

Tim Fulton  24:31

me, thank you for listening to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com Please rate subscribe, share this episode of The confluence cast with your friends, family, contacts, enemies, your favorite political reporter. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast, get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info We’re at the confluence cast.com Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson. Our producer is Philip Cogley. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.