Ohio House: Democrats Defend Three Battleground Seats

by Erin Covey September 12, 2023 · 11:45 AM EDT

Three Ohio Democrats who won battleground races in 2022 can breathe a sigh of relief, now that their districts won’t be redrawn ahead of the 2024 election after all.

The state Supreme Court dismissed legal challenges to the current congressional map last Thursday, allowing the lines to stay in place for this cycle. Last cycle, the state Supreme Court had ruled that this congressional map was unconstitutional, but because of the late timing of the ruling the state used the map in 2022. Since then, conservatives have won a majority of seats on the court.

Since Republicans control the state Legislature and state Supreme Court, a redrawn map would likely favor Republicans more than the current one. But Democrats are still defending three competitive districts — Ohio’s 1st, 9th, and 13th — that Republicans could flip under the right circumstances. 

The 13th District
Among these three districts, the Akron-based 13th could be the most competitive. In 2022, it featured the Buckeye State’s closest race, with state Rep. Emilia Sykes defeating conservative commentator Madison Gesiotto Gilbert by just 5 points.

The 2022 results show the swingy nature of this region — Democrat Tim Ryan (who had previously represented nearly a third of this district in Congress) won the 13th by 6 points in his Senate bid, while Republican Gov. Mike DeWine won it by 14 points. Joe Biden would have won this Akron-based seat by 3 points in 2020. 

According to Inside Elections’ Baseline, the 13th is the third-most evenly divided district in the country. Democrats have a narrow 0.5-point (49.5-49 percent) advantage when taking into account all federal and statewide results over the last four election cycles.

A poll commissioned by the Speaker Kevin McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund in August found that Republicans had a 1-point lead on the generic ballot (46-45 percent). But so far, Sykes doesn’t have any serious opponents. 

Republicans were attempting to recruit former state GOP chair Jane Timken (who finished a distant fifth in the 2022 Senate primary) and state Sen. Kristina Roegner to run for this seat, but both potential candidates ruled out campaigns after the redistricting news broke. Hudson City Councilman Chris Banweg filed to run a month ago but has yet to announce a campaign. And Gilbert isn’t expected to run again since she's now working as a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee.

Ohio’s primary is March 19, and the clock is ticking for Republicans to find a strong candidate ahead of the Dec. 20 filing deadline. Tilt Democratic.

The 9th District
Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur was in an incredibly vulnerable position last year, after redistricting made the congresswoman’s Toledo-based district significantly more Republican. 

But Kaptur — the longest-serving congresswoman in U.S. history — put up a fierce fight, and ended up running against one of the weakest Republican nominees in the country. Last cycle, Republican outside groups pulled their ad reservations after news broke that J.R. Majewski, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and had promoted QAnon conspiracy theories, had also misrepresented his military career. Kaptur won by 13 points, two years after President Donald Trump carried this district by 3 points.

Republicans in D.C. are going out of their way to make sure they don’t have a repeat of 2022. Former state Rep. Craig Riedel, who came in second place in last year’s GOP primary, is running again, and is D.C.’s preferred candidate. He’s picked up endorsements from Reps. Jim Jordan and Max Miller.

Majewski initially had said he wouldn’t run again, citing his mother’s health concerns. But in recent weeks he’s been attacking Riedel and the NRCC on Twitter and saying he thinks he “deserves another shot.”

Riedel raised more than $540,000 in the second quarter of 2023, outraising both Kaptur (who raised $360,000) and the second Republican candidate, former Napoleon Mayor Steve Lankenau (who raised $68,000). Former Walbridge Mayor Dan Wilczynski was initially running but dropped out of the race in July.

If Riedel is the nominee, Kaptur is almost certain to have a more competitive race than last cycle. Lean Democratic.

The 1st District 
First-term Rep. Greg Landsman has a clear edge in 2024 after unseating longtime Republican Rep. Steve Chabot last cycle. Landsman defeated the incumbent by 6 points, 53-47 percent, after redistricting changed the 1st to include all of Cincinnati. Biden would have won the district by 9 points in 2020.

Orlando Sonza, a Filipino-American Army veteran, announced he was running for the 1st in July. The former Hamilton County assistant prosecutor is a first-time candidate, but Republicans are excited about his campaign.

So far, Sonza doesn’t have any primary opponents. The next fundraising deadline will provide more clues about his campaign’s strength. 

Landsman raised $450,000 in the second quarter and had $740,000 in his campaign account at the end of June. Lean Democratic.

Updated Sept. 13 with news about Timken and Roegner