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A state-by-state roundup of key election news from around the Midwest:

Mixed news in Ohio: Union supporters succeeded in striking down a sweeping collective-bargaining state law, rejecting the Issue 2 referendum by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin. The result has been considered a rebuke of first-year Republican governor John Kasich and springboard for President Obama’s once-sagging numbers in Ohio.

Democrats should be reluctant to read too much optimism in the numbers, cautions The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. While Issue 2 failed, the lesser-known Issue 3 passed by an even wider margin. Issue 3, which proposed to prohibit the government from forcing participation in a health-care plan, won more than 66 percent of the ballots cast. It’s a sting delivered to Obama’s federal health-care law.

Implications of Michigan recall: State representative Paul Scott became the first Michigan office-holder to be recalled since 1983. He lost Tuesday’s recall election by eight-tenths of one percent, as 12,284 cast ballots for the recall and 12,087 against.

Scott had been targeted by the Michigan Education Association, according to our partner station Michigan Radio, because he supported budget cuts for K-12 schools and tenure-law revisions, and the state’s income tax extension to senior pensions. His recall is viewed as a warning sign to first-year Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

Gary, Indiana breaks new ground: Karen Freeman-Wilson has called Gary, Indiana a “blighted steel town on Lake Michigan’s southern shore.” She’s going to get a chance to clean it up. Voters elected Freeman-Wilson as the city’s mayor on Tuesday. In doing so, she becomes the first black female mayor in Indiana state history. She tells the Northwest Indiana Times she’s already working to make Gary a safer, business-friendly city.

Regional outlook: Changing Gears senior editor Micki Maynard examines the impact of Tuesday’s elections on first-year governors across the Midwest. Will the momentum that swept Republican governors. Rick Snyder, John Kasich and Scott Walker into office now work against them?

She explains that it’s not entirely a partisan issue. But on Tuesday, union supporters that protested collective-bargaining limits won the day. Heading into 2012, they hold the Midwestern momentum.


At a certain point, you can’t tell if you’ve created the momentum, or the momentum has created you — Annie Lennox

There’s no doubt that the Midwest was swept this past year with political momentum. It deposited Republican governors into office in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, and in turn, buoyed successful efforts to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

But with the resounding defeat of Ohio’s Issue 2 on Tuesday night, it appears that momentum has been slowed, if not stopped. And now, like a tide rushing out, governors across the Midwest have to consider whether the momentum that led to swift changes will now work against them.

Those with the most to worry about include Republican governors John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and the situation also could affect other politicians across the region, both Republican and Democrat.

To be sure, there are big differences in Midwest states and cities, and the situations that they face.

In Ohio and Wisconsin, nothing short of a political revolution took place. Those two governors were bold in their attacks on public employee unions, using budget crises as an excuse, pushing measures through their respective legislatures before union members had a chance to figure out what hit them.

Last winter's Wisconsin protests

Despite high-profile protests in both places, especially Madison, Wis., the governors’ momentum carried the day.

In Michigan and Indiana, Republican governors have been more cautious. Both Snyder and Daniels have said they aren’t in favor of right-to-work efforts, even though Republicans in both states have called for them.

Daniels took action years ago against state employees, well out of a national spotlight. And Snyder has been judicious in dealing with collective bargaining rights. His one test of the vortex has been to give emergency managers the right to abrogate parts of union contracts in the state’s most deeply troubled cities.

One Democrat who has braved union members’ wrath is Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel. Throughout his campaign and in his early months as mayor, Emanuel made a longer school day his stop priority. He went around the city’s teacher’s union and offered incentives directly to city schools, including raises for teachers if they’d work longer hours.

Thirteen schools took him up on it, but the vast majority of schools steadfastly refused, setting up what promised to be a long and nasty confrontation with the Chicago Teachers Union.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Last week, Emanuel blinked in the face of a legal challenge by the union, and dropped his diversionary measure. The two sides agreed to collaborate on a compromise, rather than butt heads.

Perhaps Emanuel, schooled by Richard Daley and with two stints in the White House under his belt, saw what Kasich in Ohio failed to recognize and what must now concern Wisconsin’s Walker, who faces a recall movement in 2012.

Momentum, after all, is defined as “the impetus gained by a moving object.” And when political momentum goes against you, it could be best to just jump out of the way.


Fresh off a lopsided defeat on the Issue 2 referendum, Ohio Gov. John Kasich conceded his signature law that limited collective-bargaining rights of public employees might have been “too much, too soon” for voters.

Now, the question is whether he’ll introduce similar legislation in bite-sized parts.

Despite the fact Issue 2 fell in Tuesday’s vote, 61 percent to 39 percent, polls suggest Ohio voters would support portions of the original law, widely known as Senate Bill 5. Republicans still maintain legislative majorities. More importantly: economic woes that led to SB5 still exist, and budget deficits still need to be solved.

“There is no bailout because, frankly, there’s no money,” Kasich said, according to The Columbus Dispatch, perhaps words that set up the legislative agenda to follow in 2012.

In Cleveland, The Plain Dealer compares the financial position of Ohio municipal governments to that of Detroit automakers three years ago: Needing relief from obligations and procedures they can no longer afford. The newspaper calls Tuesday’s vote “an appetizer” for what happens in 2012.

Expect to see parts of the SB5 law introduced piecemeal, including the introduction of merit pay, employee contributions to healthcare premiums, an emphasis of merit versus seniority in the way layoffs are handled.

If Ohio Republicans had stuck to those points in the first place, Tuesday’s repeal may have been avoided.

Once SB5 because, “an all-out assault on the very existence of public employee unions, they alienated thousands of fair-minded Ohioans,” the newspaper editorialized. It was, “a tone-deaf campaign … class warfare, waged by Republicans.”

 


On the night before a statewide referendum on his signature accomplishment to date, Ohio governor John Kasich spoke to a friendly Tea Party audience of approximately 300 members in northeast Columbus.

He didn’t mention Issue 2 or SB5 until the final two minutes of his hour-long speech.

Although pollsters have predicted voters would repeal the Republican-backed law that limits collective-bargaining rights of public employees by double-digit margins for weeks, it was the first signal from Kasich himself that he expected such an outcome.

It’s a rebuke of Kasich himself, opines Time, which explores the quick descent of a one-time, sure-fire political star in Issue 2 coverage today. At his election in November, 2010, Kasich was a nine-term congressman with an eye on a presidential run. One year later, he’s the second-least popular U.S. governor, according to the article.

Democrats, floundering in Ohio polls since Kasich’s election, hope to use unified opposition to Issue 2 and SB5 as a springboard for a recovery in the Buckeye State before the 2012 presidential election.

Time sums up his misstep: “Public-sector unions have been a frequent target of Republicans’ ire, but they’re not a good piñata in this pivotal swing state.”

 


Across Ohio, voters are headed to the polls today to determine the fate of Issue 2, a referendum on a controversial state law that limits the collective-bargaining rights of public employees.

Here’s a roundup of ongoing coverage of the vote on Issue 2 from around the Buckeye State:

From The Columbus Dispatch: Issue 2 is expected to drive voters to the polls at higher numbers than other non-presidential election years. Franklin County, which encompasses the greater Columbus area, reached a record number of absentee-ballot requests this year at more than 88,000. The Dispatch reports voter turnout is expected to be far higher than the 31 percent of registered voters that cast ballots in 2009.

From Ideastream: Our partner station in Cleveland examines the advertising campaigns mounted by pro-and-anti Issue 2 interest groups. Depending on the vantage point, Issue 2 will harm education. Or save it. It will bolster police forces. Or ruin them. Ideastream reporter Ida Lieszkovsky reports that the ads bring a lot of emotion to the issue, but little concrete information. “There’s usually some truth in there that they’re hanging it on, but sometimes there’s also quite a bit of reach to get the spin,” Robert Higgs, editor of PolitiFact Ohio tells Lieszkovsky.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer: The respective campaigns for and against Issue 2 and its legislative predecessor, Senate Bill 5, have taken perhaps an interesting turn in the final hours. Union opponents of the bill boldly spoke of defeating the referendum at a union hall in Hamilton County. “We are going to shove Senate Bill 5 down the throats of John Kasich and his ilk,” said Howard Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Firefighters.

In a speech to 300 Tea Party supporters in Eastgate, Gov. Kasich spoke for an hour Monday night. He didn’t mention Issue 2 until the final two minutes of his speech, according to The Enquirer.

From The Plain Dealer: The U.S. Justice Department has sent election observers to Lorain County today to ensure that county officials keep a commitment to provide Spanish-language ballots.  Last month, the county’s Board of Elections agreed to provide the ballots as part of a lawsuit settlement with the DOJ. The Plain Dealer reports bilingual ballots and bilingual poll workers will be provided in targeted precints.

From Politico: Democrats were stung in Ohio in the 2010 elections, losing the governorship and five congressional seats. This year? They’re planning on using traction from the Issue 2 as a springboard into the national 2012 elections.  James Hohmann writes, “Obama is still polling badly in Ohio, but his campaign has capitalized on perceived Republican overreach to bring recalcitrant liberals back into the fold.”


“Shall the law be approved?”

It’s a simple question that voters will see on ballots across Ohio on Tuesday. Their answers will write another chapter around one of the most divisive issues of the 2011 campaign season, a political battle over Issue 2 and the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Here are some of the basics:

The history: Issue 2 is a referendum that provides a bookend to an earlier piece of state legislation, Ohio’s Senate Bill 5, which was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich on March 31. SB5 limits the collective bargaining rights of Ohio’s 360,000 public employees.

Among the mandates of SB5: It says public employees must pay for at least 15 percent of their health care premiums, prohibits union members from negotiating benefits, makes strikes by union members illegal and emphasizes merit versus seniority when mulling promotions.

The buildup: Union organizers gathered enough signatures to place a repeal of SB5 on the November ballot. At the end of August – five months after signing the bill into law — Gov. Kasich sought a compromise on SB5 that would strike down some provisions in exchange for removing the referendum, now known as Issue 2, from the ballot.

Organizers of the anti-SB5 group We Are Ohio told the governor they would not compromise on piecemeal provisions in the law. They wanted it repealed in its entirety before they would negotiate. An August 30 deadline passed. No compromise was reached.

What happens Tuesday: Polling places are open in Ohio from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET. A “yes” vote on Issue 2 means a voter approves of the SB5 law. A “no” vote means a voter rejects the law.

What comes next: Two weeks ago, a Quinnipiac Poll showed voters could reject the measure by a 25-point margin. If Issue 2 is defeated and SB5 is repealed, that hardly means the debate is finished.

Many Ohio politicians have indicated that the Republican-led legislature would introduce parts of the bill individually – while recent polls have showed weak support for SB5 overall, they have also shown strong support for certain segments of it.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday those provisions could include, “limits on how much local governments would be required to pay toward employees’ health-insurance costs or on picking up portions of employees’ pension contributions.“

Broader implications: Results of the Ohio vote are being closely watched across the Midwest. In Wisconsin,a fight of similarly fierce volume broke out over legislation that limited the collective-bargaining rights of public employees, and many experts will draw parallels between the Ohio results and ongoing efforts in Wisconsin to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

But there are clear distinctions between the states and the way they operate, explains the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen tells the newspaper it’s partly a referendum on the governors.

“I think that if the (Ohio law) really does get rejected by the kind of margins the polls are suggesting, it’s a reflection of the fact that John Kasich is a lot more unpopular than Scott Walker is,” he said.

 


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Ohio’s Issue 2 trails at polls. A Quinnipiac Poll conducted last week showed Ohio voters are likely to vote down Issue 2 by a 25-percent margin, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Such a vote, which would scuttle Senate Bill 5 legislation signed earlier this year, would lead to more questions than answers, says the newspaper. Even if Issue 2 falls, Republicans still believe the state’s collective-bargaining laws need an overhaul. And although polls show fierce opposition to SB5, The Dispatch says there is strong support for portions of it, including merit pay and seniority-based raises.

2. Snyder addresses Michigan’s rail future. Gov. Rick Snyder will deliver the keynote address today at the Michigan Rail Summit in Lansing, a conference that will details the state of rail service in the state. Last week, the governor called for more than $1 billion in infrastructure improvements throughout Michigan. Snyder’s spokesperson, Sara Wurfel, tells our partner station Michigan Radio that Snyder believes “rail is very important to that mix, both passenger and freight.” Michigan recently secured a federal grant to purchase and upgrade 140 miles of track to be part of accelerated service between Detroit and Chicago.

3. Icahn acquires stake in Navistar. Regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that billionaire investor Carl Icahn has acquired a large stake in Navistar International Corp. The Warrenville, Ill.-based truck-maker released a statement after the documents were made public, saying “Navistar’s board and management team are committed to acting in the best interests of all the company’s stockholders.” Icahn acquired 9.8 percent of Navistar’s stock. Although he’s usually a harsh critic of the companies he acquires, according to the Chicago Tribune, he was optimistic about Navistar. “If you look ahead a few years with Navistar, you see good things,” he told CNBC. Last month, Changing Gears reporter Niala Boodhoo profiled the company, and examined a year’s worth of changes that perhaps preserved jobs in the Midwest and put the company on more competitive footing.