Spoiler: The answer is an emphatic “no.”
I heard some grumbling after the election that “Republicans should not run for offices they know they will lose,” because it damages the other candidates who are in winnable races – specifically state legislative races in Monroe County. But despite the heavy turnout among Democrats in Monroe County, Republicans dominated the two most contested races. The Republican candidate won in District 62 by a margin of 11,483 to 6,613. The Republican candidate won in District 60 by a margin of 13,734 to 6,611 votes.
But by that logic no Republican should run for anything at all in Monroe County, outside of Republican townships like Van Buren and Richland. I simply cannot agree with that. I do not and will not accept automatic one party rule with no opposition from the Republican Party. I do not accept that Democrats should not even be challenged at the county level, or at the city level for that matter.
Did the local GOP stir up and antagonize Democrats? The reality is that Democrats were always going to be stirred up in the 2018 mid-term election because of Donald Trump and Trey Hollingsworth. Nationwide and especially in Monroe County, President Trump is driving Democratic turnout, and in Monroe County Hollingsworth is close behind. The Democrats hate Hollingsworth. They were going to hate whoever won the Republican primary in 2016, because that person would go on to defeat Shelli Yoder, but they hate Holingsworth more. That’s not a slam on Hollingsworth, who has been a great representative. But the fact of the matter is their hatred of him drove turnout.
We should not attribute a national trend to local candidates. Local Republicans are losing on national and statewide races, not local races. That has been the case since 2003 and the Iraq war. Now it is due to hatred of Trump. This is what happens when we get (let’s be brutally honest) the most aggressive and obnoxious candidate possible. Trump has done well on policy, but he is needlessly antagonistic and his constant trolling has hurt Republicans in swing states and swing districts.
We also lost because Democrats have spent 16 years registering thousands and thousands of voters and Republicans’ new registrations have not kept pace. It is almost unbelievable now, but George W. Bush won Monroe County with approximately 19,000 votes in 2000. We have basically the same number of voters we had then, adding maybe 2000-3000. Democrats have added 15,000 to 20,000 new voters and Republican candidates – no matter how much more obviously well qualified – cannot compete with that voter registration gap.
Running solid candidates does not hurt the ticket. It helps the ticket. Remember, all but one of the Republicans running for county government in Monroe County in 2016 ran way ahead of the statewide races (President, Governor, U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate and Superintendent of Public Instruction) and got thousands more votes lower on the ticket than the top of the ticket. If anything, local Republicans may have reduced the margin of loss in Monroe County for the Republicans at the top of the ticket.
Finally and most importantly, Republicans have a moral obligation to be an opposition party in Monroe County. Voters deserve a choice, and Republicans should run for office to give them that choice. An election with no opposition party is not an election at all. We have 22,000 Republican voters in Monroe County that should not be denied the opportunity to vote for a Republican candidates for local offices. We should not deny those voters a voice in local government.
I firmly believe Republicans can win countywide races and more county council district races, but we need to register more voters and the state party needs to help. The 2016 and 2018 elections were the first step in our rebuilding effort, and that effort must continue.