Morgan Harper (A’05) is running for the open U.S. Senate seat in Ohio. The primary for this race is scheduled for May 3, and the general election will be held on Nov. 8.
The Senate seat opened following Republican Senator Rob Portman’s announcement in January that he will be retiring at the end of his second term. The race to elect his replacement is seen as particularly important to Democrats, as it offers an opportunity to switch Portman’s previously red seat to blue, which could affect who controls the Senate in 2022. Ohio has historically been considered a swing state but has shifted to the right in the past decade.
Harper, who grew up in Ohio before attending Tufts for her undergraduate degree, is focusing a major portion of her campaign on improving Ohio’s economy. According to her campaign website, Harper plans to create more job opportunities, increase the usage of renewable energy and invest in rural areas in Ohio, all with the goal of stimulating the local economy.
If elected, Harper plans to help young Ohioans by implementing plans to fight the opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services, with the goal of reducing violence. She also committed to fighting discrimination based on race, disability and sexuality.
Isabella Getgey, a political science student from Ohio, said she supports Harper’s policies.
“She endorses universal childcare, tuition-free public college [and] she supports reparations and the Green New Deal… She’s been called the AOC of the Midwest,” Getgey, a junior, said. “I think all of these policies would be great for Ohio.”
Harper is running against Tim Ryan, Traci Johnson and LaShondra Tinsley in the primary for the Democratic nomination. Representative Tim Ryan is largely considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
Mitchell Saunders, vice president of Tufts Democrats, said he believes Ryan “has a 95% chance of winning this primary,” as he is well known in Ohioan politics for serving in the House of Representatives since 2003.
Though the race is still very far off to predict, polling listed on FiveThirtyEight has Republican Josh Mandel, a Trump supporter, winning by slight margins in a potential matchup with Ryan.
Michael Dianetti, a senior from Ohio, said that Mandel’s popularity is reflective of Ohio’s shift to the political right.
“I think that Ohio is not really a swing state anymore. If you look at the last couple of elections where … the Democrats won Georgia, and Texas was a couple points away [from electing a Democratic governor], but Trump beat Biden in Ohio by eight points,” Dianetti said. “I think the political culture in Ohio is very much shifting.”
Dianetti said that an increasingly old, white electorate might be one possible reason for this rightward shift.
“A lot of young people leave Ohio and don’t necessarily go back, so I think that’s shifting the electorate a lot,” Dianetti said. “It’s a lot of older people, a lot of straight white people are really doing the majority of the voting in Ohio.”
Dianetti also highlighted that Republicans’ gerrymandering has played a role in the increasing number of Congressional districts in Ohio that vote Republican. However, Ohio’s Supreme Court recently struck down a new congressional map drawn by Republicans, reasoning that the gerrymander violated the state’s constitution.
Getgey said she expects Harper to face challenges during her campaign due to her race and gender.
“I think given how Black women have been marginalized throughout American history, Harper, as a progressive black woman, is at a structural disadvantage against her candidates in a highly contested, red state,” Getgey wrote in an electronic message to the Daily.
Although Saunders does not expect Harper to win the primary, he sees value in her pursuit.
“Although I’ve been sort of pessimistic on Ms. Harper’s odds in the race, I think that what she’s doing is really important,” Saunders, a sophomore, said. “The more candidates that run for a race, the more that they reach out to … possible voters who might not normally be involved in politics, and just getting them to vote is the most important thing.“