“Welcome to the Republican Mahoning Valley,” declared Paul Sracic, professor of political science at Youngstown State University, as he addressed the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber Nov. 5.
What seemed unimaginable just a few years ago is unmistakable today. This political realignment was the most surprising development in the Nov. 3 general election for a region that had been a Democratic stronghold since 1936 and FDR’s New Deal.
Trumbull County, which four years ago voted for Donald Trump, again supported the president and was joined by voters in Mahoning County. Incumbent Democrat officeholders such as longtime Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka and state Sen. Sean O’Brien – long seen as eager to collaborate with his GOP colleagues (perhaps too eager) – were ousted. Mahoning County Democratic officeholders, including most who ran unopposed, were reelected but by significantly lower margins than in previous elections.
Perhaps the best example of the political realignment is Trumbull’s rejection of native son Tim Ryan in favor of Republican challenger Christina Hagan. According to unofficial results, Ryan received just 52.48% of votes cast in the 13th congressional district, including 56% of the vote in Mahoning County and just over 48% in Trumbull. Ryan fared better elsewhere in his district.
In truth, signs of such an alignment have been evident for some time, accelerated by Trump’s victory in 2016, followed by Republican businessman Mike Rulli’s election in 2018 as state senator and the late Don Manning’s win for state representative.
Where not long ago the Mahoning Valley legislative delegation to Columbus was dominated by Democrats, now there will be only two compared to the Republicans’ four.
If local Democrats were under the impression they could afford to take voters for granted, this election disabused them of that notion. Similarly, it is up to Republicans to keep putting up qualified candidates and not fall into complacency.
A strong two-party system can only benefit the Mahoning Valley. It’s the clash of ideas, the checks and balances, that produces good government.
One-party rule ultimately leads to bad results, whether it’s the Democratic dominated local corruption scandals of the 1980s or the Ohio GOP scandals of the mid-2000s or, more recently, the bribery indictment of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.
What we don’t need from divided government is the obstruction for obstruction’s sake that we have observed far too long in Washington.
The American people deserve better from all levels of government than, for example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that Republicans’ No. 1 priority in 2009 was to make Barack Obama a “one-term president.”
It’s time to come together and govern.