Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Cleveland Plain Dealer. April 29, 2022.

Editorial: Don’t be deterred from voting in Tuesday’s election by confusion, partisan sniping

Yes, Ohio’s 2022 primary is a mess. The constitutionality of the congressional map guiding the May 3 primary U.S. House contests is being litigated. State legislative contests have been yanked off the Tuesday ballot for an as-yet-to-be-scheduled second primary. Voters who thought absentee-ballot applications would be mailed to them, as happened two years ago, have waited in vain. (Voters need to request absentee ballot applications themselves.) And the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has had to change more than 20 voting locations impacting more than 60,000 voters in Cleveland, Euclid, Mayfield Heights, North Royalton, Parma, Seven Hills, Shaker Heights and Westlake. (Go to www.443vote to verify your polling location if you have any doubts about where to vote May 3.)

All this has led to unprecedented confusion and headaches for voters and election workers, not to mention the candidates themselves.

But there’s still time to vote early in-person. There’s still the opportunity to request an absentee ballot and complete it. You can still vote close to home on Tuesday.

And here’s the critical bottom line: Important statewide, county, and judicial elections are on the May 3 primary ballot that will decide which candidates advance to November. Ballot issues that affect your hometown and schools also are before voters. Don’t give up your ability to have a say.

Voters will also decide important congressional contests on May 3 -- including the 11th Congressional District Democratic primary between U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown and former state Sen. Nina Turner. Given the overwhelmingly Democratic character of this Cuyahoga County congressional district, the primary will likely decide that House seat. Then there’s the seven-way Republican primary in a potentially swing 13th Congressional District in Summit and parts of Stark and Portage counties that includes a large crop of first-time GOP candidates.

Voters just have to look beyond the ongoing partisan recriminations over redistricting, grit their teeth, arm themselves with facts and forge forth to vote and make a difference for Ohio.

In other words, don’t let your anger at having to vote in still-unresolved congressional districts or at the politicians who created this mess deter you. Focus instead on your choices. That way, you will have nothing to regret if a May 3 ballot issue like the hotly contested Issue 9 in Cleveland Heights is decided contrary to your wishes, or if you don’t like candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot. You’ll know you gave it your best shot when you could.

The falloff in voter interest in this primary is alarming. Statewide, early-voting numbers as of last week are down 17% from four years ago, cleveland.com’s Andrew J. Tobias reports. There’s been an even steeper dive for ballots requested by Democrats -- down 24% statewide while Republican early voting is up a tad from this time four years ago, Tobias notes.

For Cuyahoga County, the state’s major Democratic stronghold, the early-voting dive appears even more pronounced. Tony Perlatti, who directs the Cuyahoga County elections board, told Tobias that normally in a midterm election, close to 80,000 county voters would have requested absentee ballots by now. The actual number through Tuesday was 30,455, about two-thirds of them Democratic primary ballots. That’s a more than 60% falloff overall.

Granted, some of the state’s highest-profile primary contests are on the GOP side -- including a seven-way Republican race for the U.S. Senate nomination and a four-way GOP primary race for governor. But two strong candidates are contesting the Democratic primary for governor. And in Cuyahoga County, besides the Brown-Turner congressional primary, there is a two-way Democratic primary for Cuyahoga County executive and a four-way Democratic primary for a Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court seat. In a county as overwhelmingly Democratic as Cuyahoga County, where the Democratic Party often tries to gate-keep to protect incumbents, contested primaries are rare. When they occur, voters should make sure their voices are heard, loud and clear.

So don’t let the confusion make you a vote bench-sitter. Early in-person voting continues from today until Monday at 2 p.m. at local county boards of elections. Absentee ballots can be requested until Saturday but will need to be postmarked by Monday or dropped off at your local board of elections by 7:30 p.m. on May 3, primary day. And of course, you can also vote in person on Tuesday at your local polling place.

Seize this opportunity to make your voice heard in the May 3 primary this year, despite the impediments and confusion.

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Toledo Blade. April 30, 2022.

Editorial: Gender policy shouldn’t cancel others’ rights

The University of Toledo’s proposed Inclusive Gender Practices policy could subject the university to needless litigation. Since February, when the policy proposal was initially reported by The Blade, settlement of a case at Shawnee State University gave additional reasons for UT to reconsider the policy.

It’s also an ethical question for UT. Morally, it’s unacceptable to create a policy that prohibits another individual from following their beliefs and denies freedom of speech.

The legal hazards of such a policy were explained by UT law professor Lee Strang and reported by The Blade’s Jeff Schmucker.

In April, Shawnee University settled a professor’s lawsuit for $400,000 plus undisclosed attorney’s fees. The professor didn’t use a student’s preferred pronouns in class. The professor was subject to a warning and further disciplinary action if he did not submit to the pronoun requirement. The professor attempted to find a compromise with the university on several occasions.

The settlement was reached after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the professor’s rights were violated. A portion of the opinion is worth reading:

“One final point worth considering: If professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity. A university president could require a pacifist to declare that war is just, a civil rights icon to condemn the Freedom Riders, a believer to deny the existence of God, or a Soviet emigre to address his students as ‘comrades.’ That cannot be.”

We don’t need culture wars that threaten people’s livelihoods or worse. A bit of common sense might be helpful. Compromise when tough calls come up are a better solution than name calling and litigation.

The editorial board of The Blade has supported the rights of LGBTQ people, including the right to gay marriage. There comes a point though, where rights conflict. The rights of one individual cannot be canceled because others don’t agree with that person’s right to think and act legally based upon their beliefs. It’s not the American way.

Governments and universities should not place mandates on individuals that force them to violate their consciences. The right to free speech and the exercise of one’s religion belong to everyone, including those we disagree with.

We must learn to live together, respect each other and not create rules covering every single activity in some attempt to offend no one. That would be an impossible and foolish task.

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Youngstown Vindicator. May 2, 2022.

Editorial: Ohio State Parks Week showed what we can offer to all

During last week’s Ohio State Parks Week, many Buckeye State residents might have been surprised to learn there are 75 state parks, with recreational opportunities ranging from kayaking on Lake Erie to hiking to gorgeous, historic forests and formations.

“From Maumee Bay to Forked Run, our state parks add so much to our quality of life and make Ohio a great place to live,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “I encourage you to celebrate our state parks by taking time to get outside and enjoy a walk along a Storybook Trail with your family, a day on the water with friends, or a hike to some of Ohio’s most scenic spots.”

Soon, a 76th state park will be in place, with development of a park near Xenia that will feature an interpretation center in partnership with the three federally recognized Shawnee tribes and Ohio History Connection. Our responsibility to appreciate and preserve the state’s history and natural wonders does not, after all, begin with 1787.

If you are not at least an occasional visitor to Ohio’s state parks and forests, you are missing out. There are plenty within easy driving distance, and they offer opportunities to unplug, unwind, spend a little time amid our state’s natural beauty, exercise, learn something … and still be back home in time for dinner. (Unless you want to eat dinner at one of the lodges, which also is a great option.)

If you already know what treasures we have here, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has announced creation of the Ohio State Parks Foundation to protect, enhance and advocate for the state’s parks. At ohiostateparksfoundation.org you can vote for your favorite park, and you can learn about ways to support those parks.

In declaring Ohio State Parks Week, DeWine said “Ohio State Parks economically benefit the state of Ohio as well as the communities around them, bringing visitors to local restaurants and lodging establishments…”

That’s just the beginning. Visit one and find out for yourself. But be prepared, once you see what our state parks have to offer, you’ll want to go back for more.

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Elyria Chronicle. April 30, 2022.

Editorial: GOP voters should back DeWine for governor

Ohio Republicans would be wise to stick with Mike DeWine.

The 75-year-old governor is seeking a second term and is the strongest candidate in the four-way GOP primary.

DeWine’s most prominent rivals are former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, 63, and political newcomer Joe Blystone, 53, a businessman and farmer from Canal Winchester.

Both are trying to channel conservative anger over DeWine’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, but they appear to be splitting the anti-DeWine vote. RealClearPolitics’ average of polls as of Sunday showed DeWine with 41.5 percent of the vote. He was followed by Renacci with 25 percent and Blystone with 21.5 percent.

Also in the race is 52-year-old former state Rep. Ron Hood, who never responded to messages we left seeking an interview.

Blystone captured the lackluster nature of Hood’s campaign when he told us, “I think he’s like a ghost.”

Both Blystone and Renacci argued in separate endorsement interviews that DeWine had gone too far when he closed down businesses, especially small ones, imposed mask mandates and took other steps to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

Indeed, Blystone said DeWine’s health orders had an adverse impact on his business, which is why he entered the race.

“They poked the bear one too many times,” he said.

It’s easy, with the benefit of hindsight, to assess some of DeWine’s actions, such as the curfew he imposed, as overreactions.

Yet those tempted to judge DeWine harshly should remember just how little information anyone had to go on in those early days. As governor, DeWine’s duty was to protect the public, and he exercised sound judgment in following the science and the advice of then-Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton.

Nor were vaccines and effective treatments against a disease that has killed nearly 1 million Americans available until much later. If anything, we thought DeWine was too hesitant at times. He imposed a mask mandate only to roll it back a day later after an explosion of conservative outrage. He later imposed one again.

“We took a middle ground,” DeWine told us in an endorsement interview earlier this week after his own bout with COVID-19.

DeWine’s coronavirus response earned him a lot of good will with Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans. What might be a weakness in the GOP primary would be a strength in the general election.

The victorious Republican will face whomever emerges from the Democratic primary, which pits former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley against former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. We have endorsed Whaley.

Despite what some of his critics have said, DeWine is a conservative.

He has signed legislation cutting taxes and restricting abortion.

Although he did try and fail to get the General Assembly to enact some watered-down measures to address gun violence in the wake of a mass shooting in Dayton, he has signed into law stand-your-ground and so-called constitutional-carry bills.

Disappointingly, DeWine has gone along with his fellow Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission in approving gerrymandered legislative and congressional maps that have been repeatedly shot down by the Ohio Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

He’s also been a friend to business, supporting House Bill 6 to bail out Ohio’s two nuclear power plants. That law was mostly repealed following a corruption investigation that has raised questions about the behavior of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, FirstEnergy and a key DeWine ally on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

“Obviously, I knew nothing about that scheme,” DeWine told us.

DeWine also has touted his efforts to create jobs and attract businesses to Ohio. The biggest feather in his cap is landing a $20 billion Intel project for central Ohio.

Renacci, a businessman and former mayor of Wadsworth, was highly critical of that deal, saying the $2 billion incentive package the state put together to entice Intel was essentially “buying business to come here.” We share his concerns, but Ohio is hardly alone in deploying such tactics.

DeWine also has extensive experience in government. Over the course of his career, he’s served as Greene County prosecutor, a state senator, a congressman and lieutenant governor. He spent 12 years in the U.S. Senate before being defeated for reelection by now-Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland. He then spent eight years as Ohio attorney general before winning his first term as governor in 2018.

That experience, coupled with his record as governor, makes DeWine the best candidate for Republicans to advance to the general election.

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Sandusky Register. May 2, 2022.

Editorial: Making history is Darden family tradition

Her grandfather was the mayor of Sandusky.

Her father was a standout football player, first at Sandusky High School, then at the University of Michigan before he joined the Cleveland Browns in the 1970s.

Perhaps nobody should be surprised that Marisa T. Darden just made state history as the first Black woman to serve as U.S. district attorney for Ohio’s Northern District.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Darden’s nomination Wednesday. In her new role as U.S. district attorney, she will serve as the top prosecutor over the 6 million residents of the Cleveland, Akron and Toledo areas for Ohio’s Northern District.

The apple, as they say, does not fall far from the tree.

We’ve known Marisa Darden’s grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Darden, for many years. He is a man who is accomplished, enormously respectful and humble. We wish it wasn’t so — that there would be no more need to count firsts — but the Rev. Darden was the city’s first Black commissioner and later its mayor, similar to Marisa Darden being the first Black woman in her new role.

For many of us, we also remember when her father — Thom Darden — was on the field at Strobel Field and later at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. For many years, he was one of our own, playing for our favorite pro team. He holds the Cleveland franchise record for making the most interceptions.

Marisa Darden’s nomination came from the White House in November. She spent eight years as an assistant district attorney in both New York and Cleveland and began practicing international law out of Cleveland in 2019.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, made the recommendation to President Joe Biden, telling him she would bring a “wealth of knowledge and experience to lead the Northern District with excellence.”

Brown also said Marisa Darden served her community as a priority throughout her legal career. That, too, is a family trait, the same as her ambition. Rev. Darden said Marisa had her sights on this future since she was a teen and has put in the sweat to get here.

“I’m lost for words, we are so excited,” he said. “It’s an answer to our prayers. She has worked so diligently since she was in high school, then through college.”

We are moved also, and Rev. Darden’s observation, that Marisa’s confirmation comes just three weeks after Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court justice is not lost on us. Jackson is the first Black woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. The importance of that larger, wider, more diverse perspective, should not be lost on anyone.

“With Judge Jackson’s nomination, it’s situated our efforts for Marisa,” Rev. Darden said. “Seeing history being made and being part of that now seeing one of your own making history, I’m lost for words. It’s exciting to see.”

Rev. Darden and his wife, Thelma Darden, their son Thom Darden and now Marisa Darden have always been part of that trajectory toward a better world. We’re so proud Sandusky is home for this family.

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