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April 29th , 2023      Political Note #556 Sherrod Brown Ohio Senator

2024                             General Election

I don’t know how Sherrod Brown does it.  In a country where Democrats, once the political party of unions and the party that revered FDR for protecting the interests of the common man, have been losing blue-collar voters.  In states where cultural issues have loomed larger than economic ones.  In a state where resentment against what are seen as liberal, elite, educated Democrats overwhelms any possible resentment against the corporations and their owners who abandoned them for foreign workers, who destroyed their unions, who oppose any government effort to provide assistance to workers.   In Ohio, Sherrod Brown has survived.  Sherrod Brown has thrivedHe has thrived as a Senator and before he was Senator. His batting average is just under 1.000.  He has succeeded in Ohio politics where he has only one loss on his record.

Let’s make a comparison,  In 2022, Ohio filled an open Republican Senate seat with JD Vance.  Originally from the part of Ohio that is Appalachia, Vance enlisted in the Marines after high school, served in combat in Iraq, went to Ohio State University and graduated summa cum laude.  Vance went to Yale for his law degree after which he did corporate law and then worked for Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm.  Encouraged at Yale by Amy Chua, also known as the Tiger Mom who had written a memoir about raising her children, he, too, wrote a memoir.

What I remember most about Vance’s memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, was the extent to which Vance recognized and reified the contempt for those who gamed a system intended to be helpful.  He and the people he wrote about expressed disdain for the people who took the money but ignored or defied the help. Vance’s greatest contempt was for the system itself, partly because the system was susceptible being gamed.  Vance’s family was dysfunctional. His mother divorced, he was adopted by his mother’s third husband, and raised by his grandparents.  He had a perfect vantage point for watching the system and the people who gamed it.

Sherrod Brown is a very different man from JD Vance.  The son of a doctor, he grew up in an intact family and was awarded his Eagle Scout badge by Senator John Glenn.  He went to Yale as an undergraduate.  While at Yale, not unlike Bill Clinton who was at Yale’s Law School at the time, he campaigned for George McGovern.  Reversing JD Vance’s trajectory, Sherrod Brown came back to Ohio for graduate school, getting both a Master’s in Education and an MPA from Ohio State.

Sherrod Brown was a politician early.  While still at Yale, he was recruited to run for the State House of Representatives.  He served four terms, then ran for and was elected Secretary of State and then was elected again.  The third time, in 1990, was not a charm. He lost to Bob Taft, son of US Senator Robert Taft Jr, great grandson of President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft.  Bob Taft went on to be elected governor, to be touched by corruption, and to be described as Ohio’s most unpopular governor — ever.

Sherrod Brown returned to successful candidacies. Elected to Congress in 1992 after moving from rural Mansfield half way between Cleveland and Columbus to blue collar Lorain south of Cleveland. Only in his first term, were Democrats a majority in Congress.  As Newt Gingrich became Speaker, Sherrod Brown was more observer than victim of the transformation of American politics into the ideological blood sport it is today.   As a Member of Congress, Sherrod Brown demonstrated his ability to escape the vortex into which so many Democrats got drawn. He had voted against the Defense of Marriage Act and escaped vilification for that act of tolerance.  He led the union supported opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement and, in the end, lost the fight by a single vote.

In 2006, Sherrod Brown defeated the incumbent Senator Mike DeWine by 8 points. DeWine returned to politics, getting elected as Attorney General and is now Governor of the State.  Sherrod Brown was reelected in 2012 and 2018.  His decision not to run for President in 2020 was a confirmation of his mystique, his ability to look and sound and be accepted as a blue-collar guy whose ambitions were not unlimited, whose ambitions were mostly related to his job.

Sherrod Brown was not always alone in high office in Ohio as he is now.

  • In 2006, when Sherrod Brown was first elected by a comfortable margin of 56.2 – 43.8, Democrat Ted Strickland was elected governor by a bigger margin: 60.5-36.6.
  • Sherrod Brown’s 2012 margin was smaller, but still substantial 50.7-44.7. That was a little better than the margin by which Barack Obama carried the state – 50.7 – 47.7.
  • In 2018, Sherrod Brown began the process of being the lone state-wide Democrat. He won 53.4 – 46.6. But Republican Mike DeWine defeated the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray 50.4 – 46.7 to be elected Governor.

In 2024, there will be a presidential contest.  Republicans have so dominated the 2020 and 2022 state wide elections, national Democrats would have to be persuaded to contest Ohio seriously.  Sherrod Brown will probably be on his own as he runs for a fourth term in the US Senate.

Sherrod Brown begins his official website with a photograph of him in a scout uniform in the presence of John Glenn.  His opening statement is that he spent his career fighting for the Dignity of Work.  He promises an overhaul of the tax code to “put people first.” His fight, he says, is with “Wall Street greed.” He is proud of the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, his opposition to NAFTA and to the Trans Pacific Partnership, and passage of the Leveling the Playing Field Act which led to trade enforcement law suits on behalf of Ohio workers.  He is unembarrassed about expressing his support for social and economic justice and proud of his organizing efforts to use federal resources in Ohio for “all Ohio children no matter their zip code of the color of their skin.”

He has become Ohio’s epitome of a blue collar guy.  Al Franken, commenting on Sherrod Brown’s gravelly voice, said Sherrod Brown must have been hit in the throat by a hockey puck.  A newspaper reported on Sherrod Brown’s visit to a union hall and quoted Jose Arroyo, a third generation steel worker, “I love that voice.” Whether it is his voice or his views, he is convincingly comfortable in a union hall.  Arroyo continued: “…he knows the language.  He sounds like a working man.” Al Franken explained he that he is fluent in pension plans, overtime work rules and the “myths” of free trade.  It is in that persona as well as his policy views, that Sherrod Brown did not just establish blue collar credentials, he became an example of them.

Reelection for Sherrod Brown is certainly not automatic.  The Republicans don’t think so.  Two have announced their candidacy.  Five more are giving it some thought.  After Jon Tester of Montana, I count Sherrod Brown as the second most vulnerable incumbent Democratic Senator.  Help him win reelection.  Give to him every month if you can.

State wide candidates about whom I have already written. Read my notes again and donate to these incumbents and these candidates. 

US Senate Candidates

Preserve the Democratic majority in the US Senate in 2024.  There are several vulnerable Democrats and very few vulnerable Republicans.

Jon Tester, Montana is, in my view, the most vulnerable Democrat.  Some Montana Republicans are attempting to change Montana’s election system – just for the US Senate and just for 2024.  If they adopt a top two primary, which they probably will not, they would eliminate the Libertarians and independent candidates from the general election. Republicans seem to think that it is the Libertarians and the independent candidates who have allowed Jon Tester to be elected even though he did not have a majority of the vote.  Len’s Political Note #550.

Ruben Gallego, Arizona will be the Democratic nominee.  Kyrsten Sinema, the now Independent incumbent up for election, complicates matters but she will not dominate the contest.  A Republican nominee will make this a three-way race.  Ruben Gallego can make this into a race between a reasonable Democrat, an erratic independent, and an extreme Republican.  If that is the story he tells, he will win. Help him tell that story and win in November.   Len’s Political Note #544

Lucas Kunce, Missouri will be the Democratic nominee. He lost the nomination for US Senate in the Democratic primary in 2022. Not unlike Sherrod Brown, he is a champion of blue collar workers from his state and an advocate for corporate accountability.    He is probably the Democrats’ best chance to flip a Senate seat. Help that happen.  Len’s. Political Note #538

2023 Gubernatorial elections

Victories for these three candidates would be meaningful — for their states and for the country.  Help create that meaning.

Andy Beshear, Kentucky for reelection. Len’s Political Note #533

Shawn Wilson, Louisiana to succeed a termed-out Democrat. Len’s Political Note #549

Brandon Presley, Mississippi to be the first Democratic Governor of that state in 20 years. Len’s Political Note #535.