Ohio lawmakers could soon consider legislation that would move the state’s 2020 primary from March to May and potentially weaken a presidential bid by the state’s senior senator, Sherrod Brown.
State Rep. Jack Cera — who, like Brown, is a Democrat — introduced the bill this week.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Cera said he believes March primaries, which in Ohio only occur during presidential years, are an unfair burden on local elections administrators and candidates who have a narrower window to prepare for the next election.
Cera has not discussed his bill with Brown and said it is not his intention to hurt his chances. Brown, who is weighing a campaign, would join a large field and could benefit from a strong Ohio showing early on the primary calendar. A May contest could be too late for Brown. One state that could be positioned to benefit a native candidate: California, where Sen. Kamala Harris could clean up on Super Tuesday, March 3.
Under current Ohio law, the state’s 2020 primary would be March 10. Primaries are set for early May every other year.
“It’s my last term,” Cera joked, “so I figured I’d stir up as much shit as I can.”
Brown has been preparing a presidential campaign for months, and this weekend he will wrap up a tour of early-voting states with a trip to South Carolina. He is expected to announce his decision next month. Representatives from his political team did not respond to a request for comment.
Another Ohio Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan from the Youngstown area, also is considering a run. He’s kept a lower profile than Brown but recently visited New Hampshire, the first primary state, and is expected to visit Iowa, the first caucus state, in the coming weeks.
The Cera bill is at the mercy of a Republican-controlled legislature, where lawmakers might factor in political integrity and the possibility of messing with one of President Donald Trump’s potential Democratic rivals. But one top state Republican told BuzzFeed News such a move was not on the party’s radar and wasn’t sure it would be a priority.
Ohio has been holding March presidential primaries — often in the Super Tuesday mix with other states — since 1996. Four years ago, Ohio Republicans successfully pushed the primary back a week in March, a move that enabled John Kasich, then the state’s governor, to collect all the delegates up for grabs there that day. It was the only primary Kasich won. He lasted in the race until May, the last candidate to drop out against Trump.
“It never seems to work it the way they they think it will,” Cera said of Ohio's March primaries and candidates.
But Cera, a veteran Ohio lawmaker, also remembers 1984, the last time the state had a top-tier Democratic presidential candidate: then-senator John Glenn. “I still have my Glenn ‘84 badge,” Cera said.
Glenn struggled in Iowa and New Hampshire that year and was out of the race after a poor Super Tuesday showing. Ohio’s primary wasn’t until May.