In closely watched election issues, Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine carried 73 percent of the vote in Highland County and emerged victorious in the race for Ohio governor, according to unofficial results, and Issue 1, a controversial constitutional amendment defeated in statewide results, was shot down in Highland County with 82 percent opposed.
DeWine defeated Obama-era consumer protection chief Richard Cordray with 63.4 percent of the statewide vote, and Issue 1, which would have made possession of all types of drugs misdemeanors in an effort to reduce the state prison population and divert savings to drug treatment, went down statewide with 63.4 percent opposed, according to unofficial results.
The 71-year-old DeWine’s win over Cordray on Tuesday puts him in an influential position as a key swing state draws new legislative and congressional maps and makes its 2020 pick for president.
The takeaway for Republican President Donald Trump, who carried Highland County’s vote in the 2016 election, is unclear. The victory comes after DeWine’s 11th hour embrace of both Republican President Donald Trump and GOP Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a key detractor.
DeWine walked a careful line on the president, choosing instead to tout his own long record of public service, including as lieutenant governor, congressman and U.S. senator.
Former President Barack Obama campaigned for Cordray and other Democrats, arguing Democratic wins were needed as a check and balance on Congress and the White House.
Most judicial and law enforcement groups around the state, including Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera, Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins and all four judges presiding over Highland County’s Courts, opposed the measure known as Issue 1.
Supporters argued Issue 1 would have saved tens of millions of dollars in prison costs, money that would be dedicated not only to drug treatment but to crime victim programs, as well.
Opponents balked at the prospect of basically decriminalizing possession of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid blamed for thousands of overdose deaths in Ohio.
The issue became a point of debate in the Ohio governor’s race, with DeWine opposed and Cordray supporting it.
In other races, Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, now in his fifth decade of Ohio politics, was elected to a third term with 53.2 percent of the statewide vote. His opponent, fourth-term U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, who dropped a governor’s bid to run for Senate at Trump’s urging, carried Highland County with 71 percent of the vote.
The 65-year-old Brown won his first election to the state’s House in 1974 and unseated DeWine, then a senator, in 2006. With a history of blue-collar appeal and union support, Brown has backed Trump moves on steel tariffs and renegotiating trade agreements.
The 59-year-old Renacci, a businessman, called Brown a liberal out of touch with Ohio values.
Republican State Rep. Shane Wilkin defeated Democratic opponent Justin Grimes in the race for Ohio’s 91st House District, carrying 79 percent of the vote in Highland County.
Republican State Sen. Bob Peterson retained his seat in the 17th District, defeating Democratic challenger Scott M. Dailey and carrying 77 percent of the Highland County vote.
Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup kept his seat as well, forcing out opponents Jill Schiller and James J. Condit Jr. with 78 percent of the vote in Highland County.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.