Toledo Blade: Sen. Sherrod Brown bright spot for Ohio Dems

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Toledo Blade: Sen. Sherrod Brown bright spot for Ohio Dems

Toledo Blade: Sen. Sherrod Brown bright spot for Ohio Dems

Liz Skalka – November 11, 2018

If there was one bright spot in an otherwise dark night for Ohio Democrats Tuesday, it was the third-term victory of incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The 65-year-old Cleveland senator beat his opponent, Wadsworth Republican Jim Renacci, earning the most votes of any Democrat seeking office in 2018, according to unofficial election results from the Ohio Secretary of State.

Proving he can carry a Midwestern state won by President Trump is a strength heading into 2020 as Mr. Brown is rumored to be on the short list of contenders for the Democratic presidential nod, even if he hasn’t publicly indicated a desire to run or taken the steps of a candidate testing the waters.

“Based on his results yesterday, I think his name will come up. It should come up,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said on Wednesday, adding, “I don’t think he volunteers his name. He’s very focused on Ohio.”

While incumbent Democratic senators in Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota were unseated in states that voted much more heavily in favor of Mr. Trump than Ohio, Mr. Brown was able to retain his seat here with 53 percent of the vote.

“Yesterday was a risky day for senators in the Midwest,” Mr. Pepper said. “We saw senators that — despite polling that suggested they were on their way to potentially winning — lost, and in some cases quite decisively.”

Republican Gov.-elect Mike DeWine’s victory coupled with Mr. Brown’s represents the first time since 1974 the state elected a governor and senator from rival parties, according to cleveland.com.

Even though Mr. Renacci, whom many wrote off as a weak candidate, was handicapped by entering the race late and being outspent by his opponent, experts say Mr. Brown has an everyman appeal that boosts him in a state inching from purple to red.

“Sherrod Brown figured it out,” said Toledo’s Jim Ruvolo, the former Ohio Democratic Party chairman. “He was against trade agreements way before Trump. Brown and [Toledo Rep.] Marcy Kaptur figured out where the blue-collar workers were in this state.”

Miss Kaptur, who defended her title as the longest serving woman in the U.S. House in an uncompetitive race, has been considered a champion of northwest Ohio’s blue-collar workers.

Both Miss Kaptur and Mr. Brown voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement as House members more than 20 years ago and have opposed trade pacts since. In June, Mr. Brown defended President Trump’s trade tariffs, which he argued on the Senate floor were critical in protecting Ohio steel jobs.

As a member of the Senate’s agriculture committee, Mr. Brown has also had a hand in drafting the five-year farm bill, the safety-net legislation for the nation’s farmers.

“If there is one type of voter that Sherrod Brown has pursued through his career it is the high school graduate, working-class voter,” Republican campaign strategist Mark Weaver said. “He’s built street credibility in those ranks. He has aligned himself with President Trump on trade, which is often a big issue in places like Lucas County and Youngstown.”

In Youngstown’s Mahoning County and Lucas County, Mr. Brown outperformed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray, capturing 67 percent of the vote in Toledo and its suburbs.

“We will show America how we celebrate the dignity of work, how we honor organized labor and all workers — the waitress in Dayton, the office worker in Toledo, the nurse in Columbus, the mine worker in Coshocton,” Mr. Brown said in his victory speech, which he delivered on a stage in Columbus beside his wife, journalist Connie Schultz, and their rescue dog, Franklin — who also starred in one of Mr. Brown’s campaign ads.

“That is the message coming out of Ohio in 2018, and that is the blueprint for our nation in 2020,” Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Brown’s appeal among working-class workers who broke for Mr. Trump has so far not been hindered by his reputation as a senator with liberal views on social issues.

“Sherrod’s unabashedly progressive,” Mr. Pepper said. “But he’s also clear that if there are issues to work with Donald Trump on, he’ll work with him.”