Why A Democratic Congressional Primary In Ohio May Present Betting Value

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on July 19, 2021
nina turner

In two weeks, voters in the Cleveland-based Ohio 11th Congressional District will be going to the polls to select candidates for the special election in November. That means payouts on Ohio 11th odds are coming soon too for either Nina Turner or Shontel Brown.

Given the seat’s large left bent, the Democratic primary will select the next member for the seat, and so it is a contest that has drawn a lot of intrigue, with Nina Turner and Shontel Brown leading the field in this majority Black district. For months, it was assumed Turner would easily win, but in recent weeks the narrative – and more importantly, PredictIt prices – have tightened significantly.

So, is the tightening deserved, and who is the best value?

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The District

This Cleveland based district has been a reliable Democratic bastion for decades. It has the largest Black population in the state. The Democratic primary electorate will be, as always, overwhelmingly Black, and who wins will come down to whether or not Turner can win over voters who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic Primary. This district voted overwhelmingly for Clinton in the 2016 Primary, beating Bernie Sanders by 36% (68%-32%), and it will make for some odd bedfellows for voters to go from Hillary to Turner, given Turner’s past.

PredictIt Odds: Ohio 11th Democratic Primary

CandidatePredictIt PriceEquivalent Odds
Nina Turner$0.63-170
Shontel Brown$0.37+170

Nina Turner

The reason for that awkwardness is simple, because despite Turner’s time as a state legislator in Ohio, Turner came to fame as a surrogate for Sanders in 2016. Turner was a leading supporter of Clinton, working with pro-Clinton PACs until she left those positions and became one of Sanders’ leading surrogates. She has used that position, and subsequent roles in various progressive campaigns and organizations, to make herself into a national name – and boost her fundraising totals. She would need to win over a lot of Hillary supporters, who may not be so inclined to support a candidate who bailed on her so publicly.

That said, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won in a seat Hillary won almost 3-to-1. So top line moderate/progressive baselines can be overrun.

The polling, for what it’s worth, points to a moderate Turner lead, but Turner was up substantially in the months prior to this race and is now either in a tied race (the one non-partisan poll of the race) or up 7% (in a Brown internal). If you want to focus on where the race is today, it would probably be fair to say that Turner is winning. At present, the election is in two weeks, and while it feels obvious to say that matters, it is a huge part of the question in this race.

READ MORE: Election Betting Odds

Shontel Brown

While Turner is the progressive candidate and sports the endorsements one would expect from that informal title, Brown is the candidate of the Black political establishment, with endorsements from the head of the Congressional Black Caucus and from Jim Clyburn, the highest ranking Black Democrat in Congress. Brown has also been endorsed by Hillary Clinton and 2018 Ohio Gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray, which is a good endorsement to have given his strength in the 2018 primary.

Brown is also on the upswing in the polls, and the question isn’t whether she can make this close, but whether she can win. That is a marked improvement on the position weeks ago. The question isn’t whether she is currently leading. That seems fairly ludicrous to claim, given the fact that her own campaign poll has her down. What is less ludicrous is an argument that she has the momentum, and it’s certainly plausible she is on a winning trajectory at this point.

Brown is a player in local Democratic politics, the chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and a county councillor, which could lend her an organizational advantage in what will be a low turnout August primary. Her fundraising certainly lacks Turner’s; although, that leads to the last question of the race.

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Final Thoughts

In 2020, the biggest primary race on the Democratic side after Joe Biden won the Presidential Primary was the Ed Markey-Joe Kennedy race, where the polling turned against Kennedy’s insurgent campaign.

He couldn’t get the momentum back. Fundraising totals and Kennedy being well known were the arguments for why he could be more live than the market expected. I know this, because I made them at the time, and then the candidate with the momentum won.

Turner is a well-known, national figure, but how much more well known than Brown in the district is up in the air. If Turner is to win, she needs to either win over loyal Democrats who have supported moderate candidates in the past or get huge turnout amongst those less likely to vote, which is unlikely for a primary held the first week of August.

Will Brown be able to convert her momentum into votes? It’s very possible, given Clyburn is coming to the district the weekend before polling day to try and rally loyal, Black Democrats to her cause.

It’s no lock that she wins, but odds-independent it seems like Brown is slightly more likely to win than Turner. Again, not a lock, but obviously this isn’t a conversation independent of odds.

Brown is the underdog, but this is a spot where the favorite Nina Turner is overpriced. There is a genuine shot at an underdog coming up and winning the race, and Shontel Brown at an underdog price is a very attractive proposition.


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