If the General Election in November is anything like the May 4 primary election, then Ohio voters are in for a wild ride. Many of the top races were expected to be settled by now, but voter discontent and last minute switches have added new elements to the statewide races. Voters will also have two statewide issues in front of them that may be familiar.

The first, Issue 1, asks approval for bonds to fund the Third Frontier program. It has bipartisan endorsements and support along with no organized opposition. But times are tight, and voters may not want to approve more borrowing by the state. Other criticisms of the program include that it allows the state to pick winners and losers, something that should be decided by the free market.

Issue 2, which relocates the Columbus casino, also has no organized opposition that have previously worked to defeat earlier casino issues. An added benefit to the issue is the support of many in Franklin County who had opposed the casino issue last November. But the issue needs approval statewide, and voters sick of gambling issues or confused by why they are being asked to decide a Columbus issue … it’s in the state constitution, so it needs state approval … might throw the “No” switch.

Other statewide races to watch are the following:

Secretary of State

In early 2009, it appeared that the fierce primary battle for secretary of state would be on the Democratic side, with Rep. Jennifer Garrison (D-Marietta) battling Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown over who would succeed Jennifer Brunner.

On the Republican side, Sen. Jon Husted (R-Kettering) had built himself a sizeable war chest and looked to cruise into the 2010 General Election. But then Brown dropped out, and Garrison was pushed aside by state Democrats in favor of Maryellen O’Shaughnessy, and 2006 spoiler Sandra O’Brien, the former Ashtabula County auditor, entered the Republican primary.

Much of the race has focused on the wild card potential of Ohio Tea Party groups. Husted has been traveling the state speaking to Republicans touting his conservative credentials in commercials, but some groups have concerns with Husted stemming from when he was House speaker, and O’Brien pulled the surprise before when she upset Treasurer Jennette Bradley in the 2006 Republican Primary. The race could be a gauge of the influence and power of the Tea Party movement and how dissatisfied voters are with any current officeholder.


This has become another race that has sparked primary excitement when none was expected early on.

That excitement came after Auditor Mary Taylor decided not to run for re-election and instead joined Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich as his lieutenant governor running mate.

Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost is the Ohio Republican Party Executive Committee-backed candidate, having received the endorsement after he agreed to switch from the attorney general’s race to the auditor’s race. He is facing Rep. Seth Morgan (R-Huber Heights), who has Tea Party support and has tried to paint Yost as the establishment and “liberal media” backed candidate.

This race is another test of the influence the Tea Party has gained within the Republican Party’s grassroots.

The Ohio Liberty Council, a coalition of Tea Party groups, has endorsed Morgan, a freshman legislator, with many of its members saying they weren’t happy with Yost when he chose to switch to the auditor’s race instead of challenging former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine in the attorney general’s race.

U.S. Senate

While Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher has more money and a lead in the polls over his primary opponent Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, there are a number of undecided voters still in the race. In a Quinnipiac Poll released on Wednesday, 34 percent of likely Democratic primary voters surveyed said they did not know who they would vote for, and 51 percent of those who chose a candidate said they may change their mind.

The poll also showed Fisher leading Brunner by 17 percentage points. Fisher went on the air last week with advertisements aimed at swaying those undecided voters.

Brunner has played the underdog throughout the campaign, and is running a grassroots campaign. If elected, she would be the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate from Ohio.

Whoever emerges from the race will face a formidable foe in former U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, who has built a $7.6 million war chest as he is unopposed in the primary.