Ohio Government and Politics


Paul Sracic & William Binning

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    About the Authors

    Paul Sracic chairs the department of politics and international relations at Youngstown State University in Ohio, where he also directs the Judge Sidney and Bert Rigelhaupt Pre-Law Center. He is the author of San Antonio v. Rodriguez and the Pursuit of Equal Education (University Press of Kansas, 2006) and coauthor of The Encyclopedia of American Parties, Campaigns, and Elections (Greenwood, 1998). Dr. Sracic’s op-eds on American and Ohio politics have appeared in the Washington Post, USA Today, Bloomberg View, CNN.com, the Atlantic.com, and The Diplomat. Dr. Sracic is a former Fulbright Scholar in Japan, where he taught American politics at the University of Tokyo and Sophia University. He holds a PhD in political science from Rutgers University.

    William Binning is the former chair and emeritus professor in the department of politics and international relations at Youngstown State University. He has a long history of being active in Ohio politics and government, holding both state and local government and party positions. In addition to coauthoring The Encyclopedia of American Parties, Campaigns, and Elections (Greenwood, 1998), he has written numerous articles on state and local parties and elections in Ohio. Most of these appear in biennial series: The State of the Parties (Rowman and Littlefield) and The Roads to Congress (Lexington Books). He has also published on minor parties with John Green in two editions of Multiparty Politics in America (Roman and Littlefield). Dr. Binning authored a chapter on third parties in The 2008 Presidential Election (Palgrave MacMillan). A slightly different version of that book was published in Italy. He occasionally writes on Ohio politics for the Ripon Forum. He holds a PhD in government from the University of Notre Dame.

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    This book is intended to meet the need for an up-to-date basic yet comprehensive text covering government and politics in the battleground state of Ohio. We want the reader to be able to grasp contemporary issues in Ohio politics but to do so with an eye on Ohio’s political history and structures. As authors, we often debated how much data and how many details to include. We hope the reader will find that we struck an appropriate balance and that this book will be a resource not only for students enrolled in government classes at Ohio universities but also for Ohio citizens and journalists from around the nation (and world) who, along with the presidential hopefuls that they are covering, descend on Ohio every four years. As we argue in Chapter 1, Ohio serves as an apt microcosm of the United States. This is likely why Ohio voters have proved themselves so adept at selecting the eventual winner of our quadrennial presidential contests. This is also why a book on Ohio politics and government is necessary.

    The unifying theme of this book is the idea of Ohio as a purple state. In a country increasingly divided into blue (Democratic) and red (Republican) states, Ohio remains among a handful of states that are not dominated by a single political party. Although Republicans have done very well in electing their members to positions in the state government in Ohio (most recently in 2014), Democrats were able to grab the state’s electoral votes in both 2008 and 2012. Ohio has therefore become crucial to the strategies of both parties as they vie with one another for power. As American politics swing back and forth between Republican and Democratic dominance, Ohio’s politics follow suit.

    The book opens by explaining Ohio’s role, now more than 50 years old, as the quintessential purple state in presidential politics. This is followed by a more in-depth look at the establishment of Ohio as a state and the evolution of the Ohio constitution. With this background in place, we move to a discussion of the various institutions of Ohio government. In addition to covering the legislature, the executive branch, and the courts, however, we include a chapter on regional and local government institutions. From this point forward in the book, we include in nearly every chapter a brief text box detailing a particular issue or event that helps to illustrate what was discussed. For example, in Chapter 5, when discussing the Ohio court system, we provide a detailed account of the court reform proposal recently proposed by the Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. Other text boxes deal with subjects such as the debate over oil and natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking), political corruption and reform in Cuyahoga County, and the controversy over early in-person voting in Ohio. The text boxes are particularly useful in allowing us to draw the reader’s attention to contemporary issues.

    We then move to subjects that, although not altogether unique to Ohio, are fundamental to understanding the government and politics of the state. The first is the state budget. “Who gets what, where, when, and how” is perhaps the most famous definition of politics, and the budgeting process lies at the core of Ohio politics. Of course, like all states, Ohio has its own political culture, which was first introduced in Chapter 1. In Chapter 8, we circle back to this topic, looking at political parties in Ohio, the state’s electoral rules, and the role of significant interest groups. Finally, we conclude by addressing the political procedures that Ohio shares with only a handful of states: the ability of citizens to participate directly in lawmaking via the initiative and referendum. There is symmetry to ending the book with this discussion. The initiative and referendum emerged from Ohio’s early embrace of progressive political reforms in the early 20th century. At the same time, as the recent repeal of the law known as Senate Bill 5 (restricting public labor unions) shows, these reforms will continue to influence Ohio politics in the 21th century.

    Although the faults of this book are solely the responsibility of the coauthors, we did benefit from the assistance of others. We want to offer special thanks to Henry Gomez, chief political reporter for the Northeast Ohio Media Group (and our former student!), who was very helpful to us as we sought to explain changes in Cuyahoga County government. Thomas A. Finnerty, project manager at the Center for Urban Studies at Youngstown State University, offered thoughtful comments on local government in Ohio. Jeffrey Dick, chair of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Youngstown State University, helped us to understand the issues surrounding fracking in Ohio.

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