Analysis: Republicans may find Democrat Jessica Miranda is hard to get rid of
The very presence of Jessica Miranda in the Ohio House has stuck in the craw of Statehouse Republicans ever since the Forest Park Democrat arrived in January 2019, fresh off a razor-thin win over an incumbent Republican.
So, this year, a GOP majority on the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved a state legislative district map on a vote of 5-2 (the two Democrats voted no) that draws Miranda out of her 28th Ohio House District and into the 29th, which is heavily Republican and where there is virtually no chance of her winning.
Problem solved. Statehouse Republicans were no doubt proud of themselves. They got rid of a thorn in their side.
But Miranda is still a state representative – at least for now - and she can still get her licks in.
Last week, on the floor of the House, Miranda gave a speech in opposition to House Bill 227, which passed the overwhelmingly Republican Ohio House. It is a bill that takes "concealed carry" to new levels. It would mean that anyone in Ohio who can purchase a gun can carry it without any firearms training whatsoever. Zero. Nada.
Ohio, welcome to the wild, wild West.
The GOP majority in the House chamber had to listen to her – she is, after all, a member, and she has also held a concealed carry permit, after going through all the training required under current law.
She spoke eloquently of her grandfather, a Korean War veteran and former POW, who had a large collection of guns, mostly rifles and shotguns. As a young girl, she said her grandfather would take her out in the woods for target practice – but only after he taught her how to use a gun.
"He would never let me touch his firearms without the proper training," Miranda said.
And, she said, her grandfather, as a military veteran, would be appalled by the idea of people running around with concealed weapons having no training in how to use them.
"I mean, for God's sake, go take a jiu-jitsu class and learn how to protect yourself in a way that doesn't put other people's lives in danger," Miranda said on the House floor.
"We are now a full fire-at-will state; we are even an open carry state," said Miranda, a leader of the Gun Violence Protection caucus in the Ohio House. "What more do you need to satisfy this blatant red herring?"
Under House Bill 227, Miranda said, "any 'crazy Karen' or 'crazy Ron' could shoot the grocery store clerk for asking them to put a mask on."
Of course, after she spoke, the Republicans in the House passed the bill on a 60-32 vote and it now moves on to the Ohio Senate.
She didn't change any minds, but at least they had to listen to her floor speech, all seven minutes, 38 seconds of it.
But her voice will soon be stilled in the Ohio General Assembly, thanks to gerrymandering. But that map that draws Miranda out of her district and preserves the lopsided GOP majority is being challenged before the Ohio Supreme Court.
Miranda told WVXU that it's not easy being a Democrat in the Statehouse these days.
"The Republicans in the legislature, I'm convinced they say and do the craziest things because they have no accountability in their districts," Miranda said. "Their districts are so heavily gerrymandered they can get away with anything.
"I've not been in that position; the great 28th is a very competitive district," Miranda said. "I have to listen to all voices in the district."
But Miranda poked the GOP in the eye in the 2018 election when she ran against Republican incumbent Jonathan Dever in a district that stretches across northern Hamilton County from Forest Park to Montgomery.
She won that race by a scant 56 votes. The Republican Party was furious at losing a seat in Hamilton County by a handful of votes.
Two years later, the GOP was dumbfounded when Miranda ran for re-election against a well-known Republican name, former county commissioner and Cincinnati council member Chris Monzel.
She beat Monzel by 2,314 votes. Getting stronger. She could run for two more two-year terms in 2022 and 2024.
Something had to be done. This Miranda thing was getting out of control.
And, so, Forest Park, where she owns a business and lives with her husband and three children, was grafted on to a heavily Republican district that stretches all the way to Harrison.
Miranda made it clear – she won't be running in the 29th District in 2022.
But we are likely to hear more from Jessica E. Miranda in the future – possibly the very near future.
"My plan going into the Ohio House was to serve my eight years and then seek a county office; I've always had that as a goal,'' Miranda said.
As most of the world knows already, the current Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Aftab Pureval, will become Cincinnati's mayor on Jan. 4, leaving a vacancy in the clerk's office that the Hamilton County Democratic Party can fill.
They're looking for someone who will commit to running for the remainder of Pureval's term in Nov. 2022 and, if successful, run again in 2024 for a four-year term.
The Democrats were handed a gift when Pureval came along in 2016 and up-ended an entrenched Republican incumbent to win the clerk's office. The county Democratic party has no interest in giving that office back to the Republicans.
Enter Jessica E. Miranda.
She told WVXU she plans to apply for the appointment with a party screening committee. The screening committee will recommend a replacement to be voted on by the full county party executive committee.
"I didn't expect be in a position to run for a county office now, but the Republicans in Columbus made that decision for me,'' Miranda said.
She won't be the only person applying for that job.
Gwen McFarlin, the chairwoman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, issued a cattle-call this week for potential appointees and the job is likely to draw a crowd.
In addition to Miranda, Thaddeus Hoffmeister, the University of Dayton law professor who soon leaves office as Wyoming's mayor, has told me he will seek the appointment. It's likely, too, that Pavan V. Parikh, who ran for probate court judge last year and lost, will put his name in the hat.
It won’t be as big a field as, say, a Cincinnati City Council race, but the opportunity is likely to draw a crowd.
"I'm going to give it a shot,'' Miranda said. "I think I can make a good case."
Maybe, just maybe, the Republican establishment is going to find that Miranda is harder to get rid of than they thought.