Party officials work to get out the vote in the Ohio primary

By Lexi Scherzinger

With the March 17 Ohio Primary Election in less than three weeks, party leaders across Butler County are working overtime to get out the vote.

Donald Daiker, regional co-chair of the Butler County Democratic Party and founder of the Butler County Progressive PAC, said the presidential race is the biggest focus for Democrats, but that “the Republicans have some very interesting races going on the local level.”

Regardless of party, the importance of the primaries is heightened in presidential election years. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. March 17. To find your polling place, use the secretary of state’s voter lookup tool. Absentee ballots must be requested by March 14.

Ohio has a partially open primary system, which permits voters to vote across party lines. However, they must either publicly declare their ballot choice, or the ballot selection will be regarded as a form of registration with the corresponding party.

The ballot will be packed for Oxford residents, with candidates running for the Ohio Supreme Court, Ohio State Senate District 4, the Ohio House of Representatives District 53, and the Ohio Twelfth District Court of Appeals. Sample ballots can be found on Ballotpedia.

Running for Ohio Supreme Court are Judith French (R), incumbent; Jennifer L. Brunner (D); Sharon L. Kennedy (R), incumbent; and John P. O’Donnell (D).

Running for Ohio State Senate District 4 are Kathy Wyenandt (D), unopposed in the primary; and Candice Keller, George Lang , and Lee Wong, all seeking the Republican nomination. Lang has the endorsement of the Butler County Republican Party, but Keller, an outspoken conservative member of the Ohio House, wants to move up to the Senate seat.

Wyenandt is endorsed by the Butler County Democratic Party, the Butler County Progressive PAC, and Miami University’s College Democrats. She will face the winner of the Republican primary this fall.

Candidates for the Ohio House of Representatives 53rd District include Michelle Novak (D), Brett Guido (R), Thomas Hall (R), and Diane Mullins (R). Novak is endorsed by all aforementioned Democratic groups, and Hall is endorsed by the Butler County GOP.

Lastly in local races, five candidates are up for election for the Ohio Twelfth District Court of Appeals: Mary Lynne Birck (R), Matthew Byrne (R), Bill Coley (R), Noah E. Powers II (R), and Robert Hendrickson (R), incumbent.

As for the presidential election, Democratic voters will have 11 names to choose from on their primary ballot, even though several candidates whose names appear have dropped out of the race. The dropouts did not petition to have their names removed from the ballot. The Democratic candidates still active as of Friday are former  Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

President Donald Trump will be the only Republican on the presidential ballot in Ohio.

No local Democratic or progressive groups have endorsed presidential candidates thus far. Caroline Roethlisberger, president of Miami University College Democrats, said the organization will wait until after the primaries to endorse. Steve Jamison, President of the Butler County Progressive PAC, said the same.

“We don’t have an opinion in the primary,” Jamison said. “Our membership will probably vote for three or four different candidates.”

The Butler County GOP has endorsed President Trump, in addition to several local candidates.

Some local political groups have held debate watch parties and events to prepare for the upcoming primary. For Roethlisberger, these gatherings help party members decide what’s important.

“There’s a lot of division within the Democratic Party,” Roethlisberger said. “Watch parties allow us to come together as a community of people with progressive values.”

Though many candidates’ yard signs can be seen sprinkled on front lawns across Oxford, not everyone is excited about the vote. In 2016, only 60% of eligible voters actually voted. University leaders like Roethlisberger and party leaders like Jamison and Daiker are putting forth heightened efforts to get people to the polls March 17.

The Butler County GOP and Miami University College Republicans did not respond to requests for interviews for this story.