Ohio Democrats, who got absolutely creamed in the 2010 elections, have now won a major victory over Republican Gov. John Kasich — massively winning a referendum to repeal Kasich’s anti-public employee union law.
With 19% of precincts reporting — which includes a significant chunk of the total ballots, due to early-votes being counted quickly — the bill known as SB 5 is losing by a margin of 63%-37%, and the “No” position has been projected as the winner by the Associated Press.
Pre-election polling showed the No campaign winning by over 20 points — and it seemed possible at time of writing that the final margin might even surpass this.
As TPM has documented, SB 5 has become a political poster child for Democrats pushing against Republicans, following the 2010 GOP wave, with the Dems and labor unions mobilizing while at the same time Kasich’s popularity tanked in the polls.
This follows a near-miss by the Dems and labor in Wisconsin, where they attempted to recall their way a majority in the state Senate after Gov. Scott Walker passed similar legislation. However, they were also hampered by the fact that the only recall-eligible districts were ones where the incumbent had won their terms in 2008, even during that year’s Democratic wave. They ultimately picked up two seats, just short of the magic number of three seats.
However, the Dems there are still not finished — and the upcoming effort to recall Walker, and to take another try at state Senate recalls in newly recall-eligible seats, could be the new battle going into 2012.
In Ohio, the law was passed earlier this year by Kasich and the Republican legislature. However, it never actually went into effect, as the citizen-initiated referendum process — spearheaded by the Dems and the unions — put the law on hold pending the referendum.
Triggering a repeal referendum required organizers to collect signatures equal to just six percent of the total votes in the last gubernatorial election, with additional requirements that they be sufficiently spread out around the state, with at least three percent of the gubernatorial vote across at least half the counties in the state. That meant the threshold was 231,150 signatures — but organizers fired their opening political salvo by collecting four times as many, thus creating a greater base for the actual campaign.
Ohio is one of many states where Republicans took over state government in 2010, and proceeded to pass comprehensive legislation to strip away collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. But unlike the high-profile cases of Wisconsin and Michigan, Democrats were able to use the state referendum process to put the law directly on the ballot — thus setting up a top-tier political battle in this major swing state, and a possible resurgence by the state Democratic Party.