It’s not often that a local secretary of state candidate can garner national headlines the way Nina Turner did during her campaign in Ohio. Turner, an experienced legislator, had been a strong voice for protecting access to the polls in one of the nation’s most influential states. She had the backing of unions and other groups on the grassroots level. She was even a popular guest on cable news shows. Turner seemed poised to trounce her opponent. What he had, however, that she didn’t was money. Lots and lots of it.
“Voters recognize that Secretary of State Husted has made it easy to vote, and hard to cheat in Ohio,” said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges about the win. “They know that they can trust him to run fair elections for all voters and they know he's working to make it easier to start and grow a business in Ohio.”
The Ohio Secretary of State race wasn’t just about the will of though people, though. It was a race heavily influenced by financial contributions from big-money donors.
Throughout the race, Husted raised three times as much money as Turner did with some of his largest donations coming from Ohio’s wealthy elite. He put that money to good use. Between mid August and late October, Husted spent over $1.2 million on media—nearly as much as Turner raised throughout her entire campaign. With those ads, he was arguably able to reach more voters and drown out Turner’s message.
In a statement released by her campaign, Turner said, “I have spent my career fighting to empower those who do not have a voice, and I will continue to do that despite the results of this election. Our state is great, but it can be greater and I am committed to helping realize that potential.”
Given her history as an active and outspoken public servant, there’s no doubt that Turner will continue be exactly that, but her loss raises persistent questions around the role of money in our political system and the impact it has on outcomes for citizens, especially citizens of color.
As Secretary of State of Ohio, Jon Husted has made decisions to disrupt the state’s voting process in a way that disproportionately impacts Ohioans of color. These decisions have tremendous implications, not just for matters in the Buckeye state, but across the country.
As Husted prepares to be sworn in for a second time and continues to regulate voting the all-important swing state, we should be asking ourselves what wins like his say about our political process. We should also ask ourselves what Turner’s loss says about who can hold office and whose vote counts.