Panel analyzes election outcomes

Abbey Stirgwolt

Elections may be over, but strategy will never be.

In recognition of that fact, a panel of political specialists met Thursday in Bowman Hall with Kent State students and faculty to analyze the outcomes and implications of Tuesday’s midterm elections.

The panel consisted of four members: Norman Sandvos, Chair of the Portage County Republican Party; Craig Stevens, Chair of the Portage County Democratic Party; Stephen Hoffman, political writer and columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal and Steve Brooks, associate professor of political science and acting director of the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute on Applied Politics.

The Ted Strickland-Ken Blackwell gubernatorial race was among the first issues discussed.

Sandvos said he disagreed with the Republican party’s decision to support Blackwell and, though party guidelines had prohibited him from speaking out against Blackwell before the election, expressed his disappointment with the Blackwell campaign.

“I thought from the primary on we were doomed,” Sandvos said. “As for the national elections, Bush said (the Republicans would) get a thumping, and we deserved a thumping, quite frankly.”

Hoffman said the editorial board at the Akron Beacon Journal chose to endorse Strickland because of his straightforward “high road and safe road” approach to the election. The board was not without reservations, however.

“We felt Strickland should be more specific and-God forbid-bold with some of his statements,” Hoffman said.

As far as Hoffman was concerned, though, Blackwell was not an option.

“One of the lessons about Kenneth Blackwell is, ‘Don’t nominate a nut,'” he said.

The panelists agreed that the gubernatorial election was highly polarized between Democrats and Republicans. Many moderate Republicans switched over and voted Democrat, largely for economic reasons, Brooks said. The result was a victory for Strickland.

“This was an election where the middle did matter,” Hoffman said.

The panelists also discussed the heavy advertising – much of it negative – that accompanied this year’s elections.

Sandvos said though negative advertising campaigns may seem irritating, they’ve been proven useful.

“You may hate it, but you remember it,” he said. “I don’t like them either, but sometimes they can be effective.

Brooks agreed, adding that negative ad campaigns are often designed to sway the opinions of those who are undecided about candidates and issues. For the majority of the population that has already made up its mind, he said, the ads are virtually meaningless.

Even proactive advertising campaigns, like those administered by phone, can generate negative voter reaction, Stephens said.

“I think those phone calls are awful. I really do,” he said. “They tell me these are effective things, but I think they turn people off.”

The panel briefly touched on the failure of Issue 3, the Learn and Earn proposal that aimed to generate education funding through the opening of casinos at several Ohio locations.

“This was the greediest, stupidest idea I’ve ever seen,” Hoffman said, adding that the state should be able to come up with a better way of generating funds for higher education. “I have to ask myself, ‘Is that the best we can do?'”

Sandvos said he disagreed with Issue 3 as well, though he noted that people who want to gamble will likely continue to do so out-of-state.

In Brooks’ view, the issue came down to values vs. economics. Ohio, he said, voted for George W. Bush in 2004 because of “values issues.” In this year’s elections, he said, the “values voting” tendency associated with this area outweighed economic decision-making that would have ushered gambling into the state.

Final discussions focused on how each party could learn from the election.

“I’m convinced that there aren’t enough evangelicals and there are not enough people in country clubs for (the Republicans) to win an election . They need to branch out,” Hoffman said of the Republicans’ need to gain support from moderates.

As for the Democrats, Stephens said, lessons can be learned by example.

“What the Democrats need to not do is act like the Republicans did when they won the majority,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected]