Americans outside of Ohio tend not to remember, or maybe weren’t taught, that after the creation of the states of Vermont and Kentucky, the first expansion of the original nation was into the Ohio territories. Pike County, Ohio, was founded in 1815 and named for explorer Zebulon Pike who had died in the War of 1812. Pike gave his name to Pike’s Peak on Colorado as a result of his exploratory work for the new nation.
Pike County is mostly rural, with rolling hills and low mountains, the back side, as it were, of the Appalachians. It’s towns and small cities are very similar to those in New England, spanning the late colonial and mid-Victorian eras of architecture. They tap maple trees in Pike County and have glorious fall foliage. It is also the site of Ohio’s great election mystery.
William Smith has won the Democratic primary to run against Republican Brad Wenstrup for the 2nd District’s seat in the House of Representatives. Wenstrup won his primary against incumbent Jean Schmidt. Smith resides in the county seat of Waverly, apparently with his mother. It was she who answered the phone the day after the primary and told reporters that William,. Age 61, was out of town for the week. William Smith did not campaign. He gave no campaign speeches and held no rallies. No one, except possibly his neighbors, knows who he is. Deja vu! This is South Carolina’s Alvin Greene all over again.
Smith beat David Krikorian of Madeira by only 59 votes out of the 20,000 cast. As soon as the votes are certified, they will go to automatic recount is the vote tally remains that close. Krikorian blamed his loss on robocalls funded by some secret SuperPAC. There might be a much less nefarious reason.
According to the candidates’ profiles posted by Our Campaigns, Smith graduated from Glenwood High School in Canton in 1960 and is a retired tool grinder and abrasive specialist from the Timken Company. He was a member of the United Steelworkers of America for 12 years and served a three-year apprenticeship at Timken, ending in 1963. He attended the U.S. Army Aviation School in 1963 and the Air National Guard NCO Academy in 1970. That information would indicate time in the Ohio Air National Guard, though his bio doesn’t specify that.
He was trained in mediation and arbitration and was elected to four terms on the Stark County Central Committee and has worked for various Democratic campaigns. Stark County is in northern Ohio and surrounds the city of Canton. No information is given as to when Mr. Smith moved to Pike County
All the attention given to Ohio’s Republican primary gave reporters a lot of time to talk to voters in that state
That little bit in his bio about having been a member of the United Steelworkers Union might have been the deciding factor for some voters. All the attention paid to the Ohio Republican presidential primary put a lot of reporters in the state, and that means they had time to ask a lot of questions of voters. What they heard from independent voters was as important as what they heard from Republicans. They don’t like Governor John Kasich.
Kasich may be the hero of the conservatives because he kept his promise to cut the state’s deficit, but he did it on the backs of public sector workers, municipal budgets and public sector unions. His union-busting law, SB5, was overturned by the voters by a 2 to 1 margin in a November referendum. He can’t be recalled because of Ohio’s laws, but he can be stripped of power if the Democrats can take control of the state’s legislature.
Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, told reporters that many of the Republican members of his union have changed parties because of that law, and the others around the country, “I’ve got lots and lots of guys who said because of the continued attacks on the unions, they no longer consider themselves to be Republicans.” The police are not the only ones. The sentiment is widespread across the public sector and among other union members in the state.
But there is also the matter of the Democratic election machine. Ohio is considered an essential state for the Presidency, and every Democrat will benefit from the way they can mobilize. The defeat of SB5 was just an early indication of what they can do. Republicans may have SuperPACs, but the power of the unions is in people who can be mobilized for everything from manning phone banks to driving voters to polls.
John Kasich, like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, may be one of the better things to happen to the Democrats in this election cycle.