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Counter Points is written by WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson. In it, he shares insights on political news on the local, state and national level that impacts the 2020 election. Counter Points is delivered once a week on Wednesdays and will cease publication soon after the November election is decided.

Your Voter Guide To Key 2020 Races In Ohio, Kentucky And Indiana

John Minchillo

Across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, absentee ballots have been mailed, early voting is in place, and Nov. 3 – Election Day – is here. No matter how or when you fill out your ballot (though if voting by mail in Ohio, it needed to be postmarked by Nov. 2; and by Nov. 3 in Kentucky and Indiana) WVXU has everything Tri-Staters need to know about the candidates vying for your vote.

Ohio Key Contests

Ohio District 1: Steve Chabot (Incumbent, R) Kate Schroder (D), Kevin Kahn (L)

steve chabot kate schroder
Credit John Minchillo, Gary Landers / AP

This is by far the biggest local race, WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson says, and is being watched not just all over the state but the country. Rep. Steve Chabot faces a competitive race to retain his seat in Ohio's first congressional district. The Westwood Republican was first elected in 1994, was ousted from his seat during the Democratic wave in 2008, but won it back in 2010.

This year he faces Democrat Kate Schroder, a former vice president of the Clinton Health Access Initiative. A recent poll paid for by the House Majority PAC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's campaign organization, shows a race that was a dead heat in earlier polls opening up just a tiny bit in Schroder's favor – Schroder 50%, Chabot 46%.

Libertarian Kevin Kahn is also running for the OH-1 seat. 

LISTEN: Cincinnati Edition Speaks With Kate Schroder (34 minutes, Editor's note: Steve Chabot declined producers' requests for an interview)

Analysis: Chabot-Schroder Race Getting Closer All The Time

Kate Schroder Took A Chance On 2020 – And It May Pay Off

Kate Schroder Romps To Easy Win In Ohio 1st Congressional District Primary

Ohio District 2: Brad Wenstrup (Incumbent, R) and Jaime Castle (D)

brad wenstrup jaime castle
Credit Courtesy of the candidates

Democrat Jaime Castle is challenging Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup in a conservative district where he has easily won re-election since 2013. Two out of the last three elections, Wenstrup faced a candidate who barely campaigned. That hasn't been the case with Castle.

LISTEN: Cincinnati Edition Speaks With Brad Wenstrup And Jaime Castle (48 minutes)

Jaime Castle Adapts To Running For Congress In A Pandemic

Wenstrup Breezes To A Fourth Term In Congress

Hamilton County Commissioner (2 seats up for election)

Andy Black (R), Dr. Herman Najoli (I) and Alicia Reece (D)

alicia reece andy black herman najoli
Credit Courtesy of the campaigns
From left: Alicia Reece, Andy Black, and Dr. Herman Najoli.

The race for the Hamilton County commission seat once held by the late Todd Portune features three candidates campaigning hard for the four-year term. Alicia Reece, a local political veteran, faces newcomers Andy Black, a Republican, and Dr. Herman Najoli, who is running as an Independent.

Reece served on Cincinnati City Council as vice mayor from 2002 to 2007 and in the Ohio House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018, where she was the head of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.

Black, who served on Mariemont village council and as its vice mayor in 2011 and 2012, is selling himself as a businessman first, and someone who can provide an outsider's perspective at the county level.

LISTEN: Cincinnati Edition Speaks With Black, NajoliAnd Reece (48 minutes)

Alicia Reece To Take On Andy Black For Hamilton County Commissioner

Can Andy Black Break The Democratic Hold On Hamilton County Commission?

Alicia Reece Wins Tight County Commission Race Over Connie Pillich

Denise Driehaus (Incumbent, D) and Matthew Paul O'Neill (R)

denise driehaus matthew paul o'neill
Credit Courtesy of the candidates

Commission President Denise Driehaus is hoping to hold on to her job, but the Democratic candidate faces a challenge from first-time candidate, Republican Matthew Paul O'Neill.

LISTEN: Cincinnati Edition Speaks With Denise Driehaus And Matthew Paul O'Neill (48 minutes)

Hamilton County Prosecutor: Joe Deters (Incumbent, R) and Fanon Rucker (D)

joe deters fanon rucker
Credit AP / Tana Weingartner, WVXU
Tana Weingartner, WVXU

Incumbent Joe Deters faces a candidate he has run against for the seat once before, former Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Fanon Rucker.

Asked by WVXU what the Hamilton County GOP's top three priorities are in 2020, Party Chair Alex Triantafilou had a quick answer: "Joe, Joe and Joe."

Deters is the last Republican to hold a major office in Hamilton County. He served as prosecutor in 1992, leaving in 1999 to become state treasurer, but returned to run for prosecutor again after Republican Mike Allen resigned from the job in a sex scandal.

That was in 2004, and Rucker ran as a write-in candidate. Rucker was little known at the time, but he ended up with 43% of the write-in vote.

It was an impressive finish and the Black lawyer was appointed by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland to a municipal court seat in 2007. He left the bench last fall to challenge Gabe Davis in the prosecutor's primary, winning the Hamilton County Democratic Party's endorsement.

If Rucker wins, he would be the first African American elected as county prosecutor.

Retired Judge Rucker is a trustee for the Murray & Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation. The Seasongood Foundation provides annual support to WVXU’s local government reporting.

LISTEN: Cincinnati Edition Speaks With Joe Deters And Fanon Rucker (49 minutes)

Race Could Be Key Issue In Deters-Rucker Fight

Analysis: Deters Campaign Finds Curious Fan In Former Bengal Adam 'Pacman' Jones

Fanon Rucker Set To Take On Joe Deters In November

Hamilton County Sheriff: Bruce Hoffbauer (R) and Charmaine McGuffey (D)

bruce hoffbauer charmaine mcguffey
Credit Courtesy of each campaign

Democratic candidate Charmaine McGuffey defeated current sheriff Jim Neil in the primary. She now faces Republican Bruce Hoffbauer.

McGuffey served in the sheriff's office for 33 years, rising to the rank of major and serving as the commander of Jail and Court Services for Hamilton County. She is the highest-ranking woman in the history of the office. She left the department in 2017.

Hoffbauer has served in the Cincinnati Police Department for 34 years, and recently retired as a lieutenant and relief commander of District 3 in Western Hills.

LISTEN: Cincinnati Edition Speaks With Charmaine McGuffey And Bruce Hoffbauer (50 minutes)

Hoffbauer, McGuffey Face Off For Hamilton County Sheriff Seat

Charmaine McGuffey Demolishes Jim Neil With 70% In Hamilton County Sheriff's Primary Race

Ohio Judgeships

Credit Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The two seats on the Ohio Supreme Court are non-partisan, but there are differences between the Republican incumbents and their Democratic challengers.

One race pits Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy, a Butler County judge first elected in 2012, against Democratic Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell, who's making his third run for the Ohio Supreme Court.

In the other race are Republican Justice Judi French, first appointed to the court in 2012 from the 10th District Court of Appeals, and current 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat and the only woman to ever serve as Ohio's secretary of state.

In addition to two open seats on the Ohio Supreme Court, there are 26 judicial candidates in Hamilton County.

LISTEN: A Preview Of The Cincinnati Bar Association's 2020 Judicial Forums (16 minutes)

Ohio Supreme Court Candidates Square Off On Issues, Ethics

Kentucky Key Contests

Senate: Mitch McConnell (Incumbent, R) and Amy McGrath (D)

amy mcgrath mitch mcconnell
Credit AP

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, is confident that voters will send him back for his seventh six-year term, and polls seem to agree with that sentiment. McConnell argues that his leadership role allows Kentucky to "punch above its weight" in national politics, and that if he were to lose, all leadership posts in the House and Senate would be held by lawmakers from California and New York.

McGrath, though, argues that Kentucky has little to show for McConnell's rise in Washington. She was in Covington and Independence in recent weeks, opening a campaign field office and encouraging early voters as she eyes a surprise upset on Election Day.

LISTEN: Cincinnati Edition Speaks With Mitch McConnell And Amy McGrath (49 minutes)

Polls Show McConnell Leading McGrath By Double Digits

McConnell, McGrath Ignore Primary, Attack Each Other As If They're Already Opponents

Analysis: Mitch McConnell Could Lose Even If He Wins

Kentucky District 4: Thomas Massie (incumbent, R) and Alexandra Owensby (D)


Rep. Thomas Massie faces a challenge this November from first time Democratic candidate Alexandra Owensby. Massie has held the seat for seven years. Owensby is a registered nurse from Ft. Thomas.

Owensby was registered as politically independent until filing for candidacy to represent the Democratic Party on the ballot. She is hoping that her moderate views can court Republican voters displeased with Massie's tenure as representative.

Most recently, Massie earned the ire of President Donald Trump – who is likely to win the state of Kentucky – when he voted to force a recorded vote on the CARES Act, the federal stimulus bill which was passed in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Massie's vote would have made Congress return to Washington D.C. amidst the pandemic to vote in-person, but his motion failed.

Still, Massie won handily over his Republican primary challenger, Todd McMurtry.  

LISTEN: Cincinnati Edition Speaks With Thomas Massie And Alexandra Owensby (49 minutes)

Moderate Owensby Will Face 'Extremist' Massie For NKY House Seat

Todd McMurtry Clings To Trump In Primary Challenge Of NKY Rep. Thomas Massie

Indiana Key Contests

Governor: Eric Holcomb (incumbent, R), Dr. Woody Meyers (D) And Donald Rainwater (L)

donald rainwater eric holcomb woody myers
Credit AP
From left: Donald Rainwater (L); Eric Holcomb (R) and Woody Myers (D).

Indiana may be a staunchly Republican state – it hasn't elected any other party since 2003 – but this year things could get interesting. Gov. Holcomb has a sizable lead in the polls, but his response to the coronavirus pandemic – specifically his mask mandate – has angered enough voters that Politico is reporting Libertarian Donald Rainwater is seeing a bit of a surge.

In addition to COVID, the next big topic on Hoosier voters' minds is education. The next governor of Indiana will for the first time appoint a secretary of education after lawmakers removed it as a publicly elected position.

Indiana Public Radio Speaks With Gov. Eric Holcomb

Indiana Public Radio Speaks With Democratic Candidate For Gov. Dr. Woody Myers

Indiana Public Radio Speaks With Libertarian Candidate Donald Rainwater

This story was updated to include the Libertarian candidate in OH-1, Kevin Kahn.