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Here are the area races to keep an eye on Tuesday night

A voter casts their ballot on the first day of early voting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Cincinnati. In-person voting has begun in swing-state Ohio for the Nov. 6 elections for governor, U.S. Senate, House seats and a host of other state and local offices and issues. Registration closed Tuesday, and county voting centers opened Wednesday morning.
John Minchillo
A voter casts their ballot on the first day of early voting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

To say this is a high stakes election doesn't do it justice.

I've been covering elections since 1974 and I'd be hard-pressed to name one — especially a mid-term election — where there was more on the line.

Control of Congress. Control of the nation's agenda, possibly for many years to come. Possibly even the future of our representative democracy itself.

RELATED: Everything you need to know to vote in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana

It's not hard to imagine in a political climate where, in some parts of the country, voters will go to the polls to find heavily armed "observers" who are there for one reason and one reason only — to intimidate voters.

It is impossible to predict with certainty what is going to happen when Tri-State voters go to the polls Tuesday. Anyone who tells you they can is pulling your leg.

Yes, in heavily Republican districts and communities, it is easy to predict Republican victories. Same goes for heavily Democratic areas.

But in more politically diverse communities, it is anybody's guess. I am asked constantly during election season to predict who is going to win a particular race. My answer is always the same: Whoever gets the most votes.

But I can tell you the races I will be watching with the most interest on Tuesday night:

Ohio Supreme Court

Freda Levenson, ACLU of Ohio legal director, appears before the Ohio Supreme Court in Columbus, Ohio, during oral arguments in a constitutional challenge to new legislative district maps on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. The Ohio Supreme Court declared newly drawn legislative maps invalid on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, giving the state's new bipartisan redistricting panel 10 days to fix GOP-drawn boundaries that would have retained Republican supermajorities in both chambers.
Julie Carr Smyth
Freda Levenson, ACLU of Ohio legal director, appears before the Ohio Supreme Court in Columbus, Ohio, during oral arguments in a constitutional challenge to new legislative district maps on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021.

To me, this is the big-ticket item on Tuesday's ballot in Ohio.

The race for a new chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and the re-election bids of two Republican justices may be the most impactful races on the ballot for Ohio voters this year.

Depending on how they turn out, they could shift the balance of power on issues such as abortion, redistricting and the regulation of Ohio business.

RELATED: 3 Ohio Supreme Court races are critical in upcoming abortion, redistricting cases

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor — a Republican who has sided with the court's three Democrats in rejecting GOP redistricting maps — can’t run for re-election because of Ohio's age limit rule for judges.

Two sitting justices are facing each other to take O'Connor's place at the head of the seven-member court. They are Republican Sharon Kennedy of Butler County and Democrat Jennifer Brunner of Columbus, a former Ohio Secretary of State.

If Brunner is elected chief justice, her seat on the court would be open and Gov. Mike DeWine could appoint her replacement.

Two sitting Republicans — Patrick DeWine, son of the Ohio governor — and Pat Fischer of Hamilton County face opposition from Democrats Marilyn Zayas of Cincinnati and Terri Jameson of Franklin County. Both Democrats are currently state appeals court judges.

U.S. Senate from Ohio


Put on another pot of coffee Tuesday night. May be quite some time before we know who wins this one.

Tim Ryan, the Democratic congressman from the Mahoning Valley, is facing J.D. Vance, a Middletown native who became famous as the author of Hillbilly Elegy and got rich as a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

Vance survived a brutal GOP primary thanks to a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald Trump and $15 million in campaign cash from his friend and fellow venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

Ryan's built his campaign around appealing to Republicans and independent voters and it appeals to be working.

RELATED: 4 Senate races that could provide the key to control

Polling in the race shows that Ohio's incumbent Republican governor, Mike DeWine, has a comfortable double-digit lead over Democratic candidate Nan Whaley. What's that got to do with the Senate race? The same polling shows that about 15% to 20% of DeWine's voters are going to vote for Ryan, the Democratic senate candidate.

Ticket-splitting is alive and well in Ohio.

All of which portends a late night in the race for Ohio's open Senate seat.

28th Ohio House District

Courtesy of the candidates

The Ohio Republican Party leadership has been trying to convince voters to jettison Jessica Miranda, the Democratic incumbent in this north central Hamilton County district since she first won the seat in 2018 by only 56 votes over then-incumbent Republican Jonathan Devers.

Two years ago, the Forest Park Democrat faced former Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel. Miranda ended up beating the Republican by 2,314 votes.

But now the Republicans in the legislature have gerrymandered the district to make it harder for a Democratic candidate like Miranda. And she faces Monzel again, who never lacks for campaign dollars.

Both sides expect a very close race.

Ohio's 1st Congressional District

steve chabot and greg landsman standing at podiums
Chabot, House Television via AP
Landsman, Jason Whitman for WVXU

Republican incumbent Steve Chabot has held this seat for all but two years since 1994, when he rode in on a GOP wave headed by Newt Gingrich.

He lost in 2008 to Democrat Steve Driehaus, who was swept in on the Barack Obama tidal wave.

But Chabot won the seat back in 2010; and the Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly rewarded Chabot in 2011 by adding heavily Republican Warren County to the 1st District.

LISTEN: Steve Chabot discusses the race for OH 1 onCincinnati Edition

But what the gerrymandering crowd in the Ohio Statehouse giveth, they can taketh away.

And this year, Chabot is running for re-election in a district that includes all of the deep blue city of Cincinnati. His opponent is Greg Landsman, a Democrat who was the second-leading vote-getter in the 2021 Cincinnati City Council election.

LISTEN: Greg Landsman discusses the race for OH 1 onCincinnati Edition

The district still has Warren County, but the city of Cincinnati is more than enough to neutralize its impact.

Overnight, Chabot went from a district that went to Donald Trump in 2020 by 3 percentage points to one that went for Joe Biden by 8.5 percentage points.

In other words, this is by far the toughest challenge Chabot has faced in his political career.

Kentucky's 4th Congressional District

Incumbent Rep. Thomas Massie (left) and his Democratic challenger Matthew Lehman.
Courtesy of the candidate
Incumbent Rep. Thomas Massie (left) and his Democratic challenger Matthew Lehman.

Yes, this is a very Republican district, a massive piece of real estate that runs across northern Kentucky from the eastern suburbs of Louisville to Maysville and beyond.

And, yes, Republican incumbent Thomas Massie of Lewis County has been re-elected with not much more than token opposition since winning the office in 2012.

But Massie is a pariah to many in his own party; a far-right libertarian whose nickname on Capitol Hill is "Mr. No," because of his lone-wolf and often inexplicable House votes. Just this year, Massie made headlines by being the only House member to vote against a non-binding resolution condemning antisemitism.

LISTEN: Full analysis of the race in KY 4

He is likely to be re-elected, but it will be interesting to see how his Democratic opponent, Matthew Lehman, does against him.

Lehman, a Newport resident who is a life sciences professional, is by far the strongest opponent Massie has faced. He has more campaign money and more professional advice (Lehman is working with the Good Government Group, a political consulting firm headed by former congressman Steve Driehaus).

And he is working harder than any other candidate who has taken on Massie, whose election votes have ranged from 62% to 71% over the years. While Massie is apparently rarely seen on the campaign trail, Lehman is constantly on the campaign trail, from one end of the 130-mile long district to the other.

If nothing else, Lehman may set a record for most miles in an automobile by a 4th District candidate.

Hamilton County Commissioner

From left: Christopher Smitherman, Stephanie Summerow Dumas and Matthew Paul O'Neill.
Smitherman and O'Neill, courtesy of the candidate
Summerow Dumas via WCPO
From left: Christopher Smitherman, Stephanie Summerow Dumas and Matthew Paul O'Neill.

Democrat Stephanie Summerow Dumas, a former mayor of Forest Park, was something of a stealth candidate for commissioner four years ago, defeating incumbent Republican Chris Monzel despite having no campaign apparatus to speak of.

It was the ultimate test of the power of being on a ballot with a "D" next to your name.

If you had doubted before that Hamilton County had turned blue, Dumas' election should have settled that.

And now, as a sitting commissioner with a record to run on and defend, Dumas is running for re-election.

And this year, the former stealth candidate may catch a break. Hamilton County Republicans are split on who they'd like to have replace her.

LISTEN: A conversation with the 3 candidates running for Hamilton County Commissioner

Matthew O'Neill, an accountant, was the only Republican to run in the May primary, so he gets the "R" next to his name on the ballot.

But many Republican leaders are backing former Cincinnati vice mayor Christopher Smitherman, who is running as an independent. Smitherman turned the party down earlier this year when he was approached about running as a Republican. But, after the primary, there was a vote of the party's governing body and O'Neill won.

The fear among some GOP leaders who back Smitherman is that many voters will go by the GOP slate card and vote for O'Neill. Having the "R" behind your name carries weight, too.

In a blue county, the last thing the GOP wants is to have their voters split between two candidates.

That could lead to another Dumas win without her breaking a sweat. We'll see what happens.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.