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Suburbs Get A Bit More Blue

Voters cast their ballots at the Cincinnati Public Library's polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Voters cast their ballots at the Cincinnati Public Library's polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati.

In this week's episode of Snollygoster, Ohio's politics podcast from WOSU, hosts Mike Thompson and Steve Brown discuss what this past week's election might foreshadow about 2020 races. Ohio State University political scientist Paul Beck joins the show.

Listen to Snollygoster on theWOSU Public Media mobile app, on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. And make sure to leave a rating and review!

On this week's episode:

Does Trump Turn 'Burbs Blue?

The November 5 election didn't offer many surprises in Columbus, where all the candidiates endorsed by the Democratic Party easily won their races. In some Central Ohio suburbs with more competitive races, Democrats made some headway against Republicans.

One example was in Hilliard, where a Democrat was elected to city council for the first time in 30 years. Another win came in Reynoldsburg, where Democrats swept nearly every office and elected the first Democratic mayor in decades. 

And across the county, in states such as Kentucky and Virginia, Democrats achieved some key victories that may, or may not, mean trouble for Republicans in 2020.

Snollygoster Of The Week

Porn star Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump and was paid to keep quiet about it, recently won $450,000 settlement from the city of Columbus of her wrongful arrest.

Now Trump's lawyers are trying to get their hands on some of that cash because a federal judge ordered Daniels to pay him nearly $300,000 in attorneys fees after her defamation suit against him was dismissed. 

Send questions and comments to snollygoster@wosu.org.


Steve Brown: This podcast was recorded Thursday, November 7th at 11:06 a.m. Things may have changed by the time you hear it.

Mike Thompson: Yeah, like maybe Jim Jordan will wear a suit jacket if he gets named to the Intelligence Committee for this week's public impeachment hearings.

Steve Brown: Would he still be a good attack dog if he had the suit holding back his arms? I'm not sure.

Mike Thompson: I don't know.

Steve Brown: Either way, let's talk politics.

Steve Brown: This is Snollygoster, WOSU Public Media's weekly dive into the murky waters of Ohio politics. I'm Steve Brown.

Mike Thompson: And I'm Mike Thompson. In case anyone wants to know, we are holding this recording session in a windowed studio. We have a window. Not in a locked room on Capitol Hill.

Steve Brown: Mike, of course, referring to the room known as the sensitive compartmented information facility or SCIF. You learn something everyday. I had no idea until look that up. That has, of course, been the epicenter for some serious snollygostering during these impeachment hearings to be a fly on that wall, huh?

Mike Thompson: Although we are we are getting getting an idea of what happened in there as those transcripts are being released. And of course, it'll all be out in the open this week when the public impeachment or Intelligence Committee hearings begin. But until then, you know, we have to do we must over analyze this year's totally unrelated election to see if it can tell us what's going to happen next year.

Steve Brown: I'm getting out my crystal ball right now and 2019. It's an odd numbered year, which means for most of the country, we elect very local offices, city county offices. And that's exactly what we did in Ohio, which for the most part was officially nonpartisan.

Mike Thompson: But in 2019, nothing is nonpartisan. Republicans and Democrats ran their candidates for local elections. So let's look at what those results tell us. Here's the rundown of central Ohio voting where we're based here. The city of Columbus.

Well, frankly, it's not worth our time discussing. Why? Because it's not worth Republican's time to run against the Democrats. There is not a lot to analyze here.

Mayor Andrew Ginther ran unopposed. Establishment Democrats easily won reelection to city council, beating other Democrats. The city of Columbus is a deep shade of blue. No sign of that changing at all.

Steve Brown: The suburbs, though, kind of a kind of a smurf blue, maybe a sky blue. But some plans of blue did emerge in traditional Republican areas. First, the good news for Republicans, Dublin, the northwest Columbus suburb. All three Republican candidates won there. Gahanna, on Columbus's east side remain strongly Republican. And in Grove City, all the endorsed Republicans won there as well.

Mike Thompson: Democrats can point to some gains in suburban Columbus. Hilliard on the west side of Columbus, elects its first Democrat to city council in 30 years. In a second, Democrat nearly won the third seat, losing by just 130 votes.

In Upper Arlington, just outside of Columbus, near Ohio State's campus, two Democrats won seats, defeating the endorsed Republican. And in Worthington, a bit north of downtown Columbus, all three Republican endorsed candidates lost.

Steve Brown: And the north Columbus suburb of Westerville, where they just had the presidential debate a few weeks ago. Elected two Democrats, to city council, one was an incumbent. Democrats now have a majority of members on that city council and in Reynoldsberg on Columbus's east side. They elected the first Democratic mayor in decades. Democrats swept nearly off every office there.

Mike Thompson: So some gains by Democrats in suburban Columbus. We'll talk a bit more about that in a minute.

But first, look, nationally in Virginia, of course, Democrats made big gains in suburban districts taking over the legislature. Suburban Richmond veteran Republican state senator barely won despite winning by 20 points four years ago. Northern Virginia Democrat won a state Senate district that traditionally goes Republican.

In Kentucky, Republicans won every statewide seat. But Democrat Andy Beshear appears to have defeated incumbent Matt Bevin to win the governor's office pending a possible re-canvas challenge. The Republicans struggled in northern Kentucky, which has a lot of suburbia around Louisville and Cincinnati.

Steve Brown: Kentucky is a weird state. They're a very red state. But they do have a history of electing Democratic governors. Very interesting state there.

One more finally. And our neighbor to the east. Pennsylvania Democrats made gains not only in the Philadelphia suburbs, but in other parts of the state, like the Lehigh Valley. A lot to digest there.

To help us figure out what all this means, we turn now to veteran Ohio State University political scientist Paul Beck, longtime friend of Snollygoster Paul Beck. Welcome back.

Paul Beck: Good to be with you.

Steve Brown: First, how much can we read into these off-year elections? How much of this will be relevant when polls go when voters go to the polls for, quote-unquote, the big one, the 2020 election next fall?

Paul Beck: Well, I think, you know, the general lesson coming out of these 2019 elections is that the democratic trend continues. It wasn't enough that a state like Mississippi is overwhelmingly red, overwhelmingly Republican.

But still, the gap in terms of the governor's race there was narrowed considerably from what it was just four years ago in Kentucky for the Democrat to at least at this stage of the game, to eke out a victory by about 6,000 votes.

I think it is, 6,00 votes. And the interesting thing about Kentucky to me is that the suburban areas around Cincinnati and of course, the cities of Lexington and Louisville went democratic.

The suburban areas around Cincinnati for the first time in an election in some time, but also some of the counties in eastern Kentucky. Some of them coal counties went Democratic. And one wonders whether that is a bit of a canary in the coal mine.

You know, to continue to focus on coal, I guess, suggesting that counties that went overwhelmingly for Trump back in 2016 now have a lot of voters in them who are giving second thoughts to what they did in 2016. And if that's so, that's an ominous trend for, uh, for the Republicans and no worries in their part about 2020.

Mike Thompson: And in those states, Paul, I mean, you could because they are they are they are more statewide elections. There's state legislative races.

Paul Beck: Yes.

Mike Thompson: Governor's races, things like that. You can see how you could look at those and use it as a harbinger of things to come. Can you do that here in central Ohio, where Democrats made some gains in some of the municipal elections?

Paul Beck: You know, I think you probably can. I think central Ohio, at least in terms of certainly the city, but also the the nearby suburbs, not so much the outlying suburbs like Powell and Delaware County servers have been trending Democratic.

And that's been a trend all over the country, by the way. And we certainly see it here in central Ohio. Central Ohio now, by and large, it is Democratic territory. I think that will that will continue. You know how much it changes over time.

We just have to wait and see. But sometimes where you have incumbent office holders, in this case Republicans who are well known to voters, they're able to hang on.

Mike Thompson: Yeah.

Paul Beck: Go against the tide in effect until they retire. And then there may be kind of a generational replacement there. We saw that in the south, certainly.

Mike Thompson: So is this Democrat, this demographics or is this a proposition to Donald Trump? Is it? Are we seeing younger folks, people of color moving into the suburbs from the city of Columbus and other cities around the state, and around the country? Or are we seeing Republican voters in these suburbs upset with the Republican Party and voting Democratic?

Paul Beck: Well, I think it's probably some of both. There certainly are demographic changes. The nearby suburbs are trending in with a demographic that is much more favorable to the Democrats.

I think there also is a reaction against Trump and even in contests where Republicans have won, I think back to the Balderson-O'Connor contest from a year ago, the Democrats have kind of narrowed the gap there.

So, OK. They don't walk away with a victory, but it's clear that things have closed up there and they're doing better. And we've seen this in a number of states, certainly central Ohio and also Virginia is an interesting case in point.

In Virginia, two things have happened. One is that the state is trending Democratic, but also the gerrymandering that the Republicans had put together that affected the last election in Virginia. Now, it's been pretty much undone by the courts and you see Democrat Democratic gains there.

So it's almost as if in Virginia, Republican attempts to kind of hold off what you may have been inevitable have now been undone. And so the inevitable is beginning to take place there.

We haven't yet had this in Ohio but, of course, after 2020, there will be redistricting in Ohio. And that, I think, will lessen the Republican hold on many of these state legislative districts and of course, the congressional districts as well.

Steve Brown: Issues are different in every state, in every city, every suburb. But if you had to given an overarching piece of advice to Republicans trying to fight this trend, or at least what appears to be a trend of suburbs turning and at least a slight shade of blue, what would your advice to the GOP, what would it be to help fight this trend?

Paul Beck: Well, I think the Republicans have a real problem, and that problem is at the top of the ticket. That's of Trump. And he is not a traditional Republican. And there are also a lot of reasons why traditional Republicans may not be inclined to vote for him. And, you know, until sort of the air clears and we are past the Trump era and one doesn't know exactly when that's going to be.

Will it be right after 2020 or do they have to wait another four years? But I think it's ominous for the Republicans. I see it most in polling data on young people.

Republicans are losing in the younger generation of voters and losing them in a major way. And a lot of that is Trump and just the aversion that many young people have. And I go into the 30s and 40s in terms of age of people who just are turned off by Trump. And of course, the the the impeachment inquiry is going to factor into that.

We don't know what's going to come of this, but it's a real problem. I think it leaves Republican officeholders and candidates in a precarious position. They obviously don't want to distance themselves too much from Trump for fear that they will lose his base or his or that he will turn on them.

Mike Thompson: Case in point, Paul, is I think he can look to Steve Stivers here in central Ohio. He has really sort of disappeared when it comes to commenting on this impeachment stuff.

The latest revelations about the, you know, the whistleblower and the asking Ukrainian government for help in the 2020 campaign, Steve Stivers has not really said a whole lot.

He sort of avoided the issue completely, both by Twitter and officially through his spokespeople and you have to wonder, because his district is a lot of suburbia, still very gerrymandered, very favored, very favorable to Republican. But you have to wonder if if he's at least a little bit concerned, given all that and the trends in the suburbs.

Paul Beck: And I think that's why I think there are a lot of Republicans who secretly and privately want to distance themselves from trial, but may do that in their private discussions with they aren't really willing yet to pull the plug. And, you know, I think they they've got their nose to the ground.

They're trying to figure out what his voters, his support base is going to do with them. And, of course, Stivers has an additional problem, and that is that after 2020, Ohio will be redistricted for Congress. We will probably, I think, almost certainly lose a seat.

That district that Stivers represents is going to be changed. And he has to be kind of looking forward, thinking about what that new district is going to look like. And does he want to end up being on the negative side if things really fall apart completely for President Trump.

Steve Brown: Getting back to this this idea of suburbia turning a lighter shade of blue and people distancing themselves from the president.

I live in a very, very rural conservative area. Mike and I often talked about the view from Richwood. I live in Northern Union County. I have not met a single person who has become disillusioned with President Trump. I genuinely haven't. This is this is very anecdotal.

I just don't see this on a on a ground level talking politics with random people who I come across with. I don't I don't see this on a personal level. I don't see anyone who did not or who did like the president in 2016. Doesn't like him now. I don't.

Paul Beck: Well, I would say two things about that first. I think it's hard for people to admit that they've made a mistake in voting. Even if they kind of secretly and privately come to the conclusion that they have. So that's hard.

Secondly, we know a lot about his base and his base is very strong in small town and small towns and rural areas of Ohio, particularly among whites, of course. And you only have to drive outside of Columbus through some of these counties to have done that in the 2016 contest, to see all the yard signs that were for Trump that I think is still there. I think there's still a lot of support out there.

Whether that support is going to wither over time depends on part on what alternative the Democrats offer.

Mike Thompson: That is the key. I mean, I think the rural folks, I wouldn't say they consider that. They don't think they're ready to admit that they made a mistake. If they if if the fact was a mistake, I think they like his attitude. They like the fact that he's giving voice, at least in voice, maybe not action, but at least in voice to their plight. And it all comes down to what the choice is.

Steve Brown: But, Mike, you live in suburban America. You live in one of most suburban parts of central Ohio. Do you know people who voted for the president and now regret doing that?

Mike Thompson: No, not we don't. Honestly, when I go home, I try not to talk politics, but.

Paul Beck: Understood.

Mike Thompson: Especially with folks. Who I know where I suspect that they have might have differing viewpoints. I live in a suburb northwest of Columbus. It's a Republican area. I think that people voted for Donald Trump for two reasons.

One, they agree with Republican Party politics and they didn't like Hillary Clinton. And I think Donald Trump won my I mean, Hillary Clinton won my city, which was extraordinary, but not by a huge margin.

And it's just because that's what it was, because it was a choice between Donald Trump, who was unpopular, and Hillary Clinton who was unpopular.

So if Donald Trump runs against Joe Biden, I think it's a tougher choice for folks in suburbia if Donald Trump runs against the Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. I think there's less of a difficult choice for a moderate Republican who doesn't want to go for a, quote, socialist. You agree, Paul?

Paul Beck: Oh, yeah, I think that's absolutely correct. What I see and I do talk to Republicans and Democrats and I've talked to a number of Republicans who may have voted for Trump back in 2016, but really regret that he is the president and particularly for what it does for their party and some of the principles they care about.

And this is true not only among moderate Republicans, but Republicans who are principled conservatives and see Trump doing great damage to the old Republican position that was supportive of free trade to Republican positions in terms of America in the world and the projection of American power.

So there are those kinds of reservations. On the other hand, when the 2020 presidential election comes around, they'll take a look at the Democratic candidate that may decide reluctantly. Perhaps that they're still going to support

Steve Brown: Just hold their noses and vote for Trump.

Paul Beck: Mr. Trump. 

Mike Thompson nd don't forget the courts, a lot of Republicans love.

Paul Beck: Oh, absolutely.

Mike Thompson: What Donald Trump is doing to the federal bench both in the Supreme Court and the lower courts and the federal side. And that's going to be the legacy of this presidency, where regardless of how and when it ends, is the influence on the federal courts. The conservative influences has grown pretty dramatically over the past three years.

Paul Beck:  That's right. And, you know, there are two sides to that. I think there are a lot of Republicans and conservatives who very much like the more pro-business stance of the Supreme Court. That doesn't get a lot of attention. But that began with Justice Roberts, particularly those continued over time.

As we have more Republican judges, both in the appellate system, the federal system generally, but also at the Supreme Court level. But there's also the social conservatism that is there in the judicial system, the federal judicial system.

And I think a lot of conservative Republicans are not necessarily social conservatives. And so they worry about that and they worry about abortion, for example, being an issue that tends to drive Republican politics in a way that it didn't 40 years ago.

Fourty years ago, public opinion polls showed that Republicans were more likely than Democrats to support freedom of choice for women. Now, that's changed and changed dramatically over time. But there are a number of, I would call them true conservative Republicans who aren't comfortable with that position.

Mike Thompson: Any predictions on when the city of Columbus will next elect the Republican mayor, Paul?

Paul Beck: Probably a long time. Well, you know, I think what may happen is and you see it.

Well, I think Beshear in Kentucky is a good example of this in the state that is overwhelmingly one party. What does the party in second place do?

They try to find candidates who can appeal across party lines and appeal to independents. And those are going to be, in the case of central Ohio, moderate Republicans who are fairly well-known in the community. And there may be such people around. And those people could run for mayor and could still, I think, get elected, though it's going to be harder and harder.

Mike Thompson: Of course, the progressives argue that Andrew Ginther is kind of a moderate Republican in the in the mayor's office.

Steve Brown: His last state of the city address was sponsored by developers, literally, it was.

Mike Thompson: Yeah. Anyway, Paul Beck, always you political scientist, always great to have you here on Snollygoster. Thanks for joining us.

Paul Beck: Glad to be with you. Glad to talk to you guys. We'll be right back.

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Subscribe to the StoryCorps Columbus podcast now at WOSU.ORG/StoryCorps. On the WOSU mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts.

Mike Thompson: All right. Welcome back to Snollygoster. Time now for our snollygoster of the week. The shrewdest politician or political move of the past seven days.

We asked you to go to the Wayback Machine. Remember Stormy Daniels with all the impeachment talk and the attacks on the whistleblower? I think we have to go back three, maybe four scandals. Well

Steve Brown: Sounds about right.

Mike Thompson: To remind you. She's the porn star who says she had an affair with Donald Trump before he was president. He allegedly paid her off to keep her quiet there in the 2016 campaign.

Steve Brown: Jump to 2018, she performed at a Columbus strip club. Columbus police alleged, but not proven to be politically motivated, arrested her. The city nearly immediately dropped charges and ended up agreeing to pay Daniel's four hundred fifty thousand dollars for wrongful arrest.

Mike Thompson: Well, Donald Trump wants some of that cash. He says most of that money should go to him because a federal judge ordered Daniels to pay Trump three hundred grand in attorney's fees after the judge dismissed Daniels defamation suit against Trump.

Steve Brown: So for paying close attention to Stormy Daniels and her legal victory in Columbus and for shrewdly putting in a claim for part of her court settlement, Donald Trump, three time now, maybe, maybe four-time champion, maybe four-time award winner. You are our Snollygoster of the Week. Congrats.

I'm sure he's going to be tweeting about that this afternoon. And so I look forward to being the ire of Donald Trump's Twitter account.

Mike Thompson: It just this is the politics right now. The sitting president of the United States makes a claim against the porn star while he's in office. No other president do that.

Steve Brown: It's great. It's fodder for podcasts.

Mike Thompson: But it's just

Steve Brown: It's it's not the most dignified look.

Mike Thompson: It's not the most savvy political move to link yourself again with a porn star.

Steve Brown: But he wants is $300,000. That's a lot of money.

Mike Thompson: That's right.

Steve Brown: Anyway, I will do it for this week's episode of Snollygoster. If you have a recommendation for next week's Snollygoster of the Week, you can e-mail it to Snollygoster@WOSU.ORG. Also, be sure to leave us a good review on iTunes.

Mike Thompson: Hey, before we go, a reminder we're gonna be on the road again next week.

Steve won't, because it's kind of late for him. He has to get up early in the morning.

But we're gonna have another one of our politics and a pint sessions this coming week, Thursday, November 14th at Seventh Son Brewing in the Italian village in just north of downtown Columbus.

Come out. We're going to talk politics for an hour, hour and a half or so begins at 6:00.

Ann Fisher from the WOSU will be there as well. Andy Chow from the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau. And our good friend Laura Bischoff from the Dayton Daily News. Both statehouse reporters we'll talk impeachment, we'll talk suburbia, we'll talk everything, and we'll have a few beverages to help it all go down easily.

Well, don't forget politics and a pint Thursday night. This Thursday night, the 14th at Seventh Son, in Italian village. Be there. Tell your friends about us.

Steve Brown: Please do. Until next week. I'm Steve Brown.

Mike Thompson: And I'm Mike Thompson for Snollygoster from WOSU Public Media.

Mike Thompson spends much of his time correcting people who mispronounce the name of his hometown – Worcester, Massachusetts. Mike studied broadcast journalism at Syracuse University when he was not running in circles – as a distance runner on the SU track team.
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