02/28/2012 03:29 pm ET

SB 5 Motivating Issue For Pro-Labor Candidates In 2012 Ohio Races

Union workers in Ohio are hoping that resentment about a Republican law that would have stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights in 2011 will still be lingering when voters go to the ballot in November 2012.

The Dayton Daily News reported that 21 union members -- including one Republican -- have decided to run for office in order to oust legislators who supported the now defunct law. The public employees are running in three state Senate races and 18 state House races.

Senate Bill 5 passed the Republican-controlled state legislature in March 2011. Public and private union workers revolted and gathered enough signatures to halt the law's implementation and put it to the voters in November 2011. Ohioans rejected the collective bargaining law two to one.

Ohio House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Alex Youn told the Dayton Daily News it was still too early in the campaign season to determine how many seats Democrats could pick up but said, "If the Republicans continue as they are, we’ll be in a very good position.”

Ohio Democratic political consultant Greg Haas said Democrats face an extremely difficult challenge if their goal is to gain control of the state's legislature.

Republicans control 23 of the 33 Senate seats and 59 of the 99 House seats. Current Democrats will face the added challenge of campaigning in new legislative districts drawn by primarily by Republicans.

“We will see how much momentum stays from Senate Bill 5," Haas said. "I know Republicans say that’s behind us now and I’m sure that’s true for some people. But (the Republicans) have really showed themselves."

Former Ohio GOP executive director Jason Mauk helped run the pro-SB 5 campaign. He said Ohio voters have moved on from the issue.

“Ohioans care more about what candidates are going to do to help the economy today,” said Mauk, who is now chief of staff for the Senate Republican caucus. “Our candidates will be offering ideas and solutions to fix Ohio's economy in the future. We are not obsessing over past debates.”

One issue that could bring the fight over collective bargaining back into the current conversation is a proposed constitutional amendment to Ohio's constitution that make it a right-to-work state.

Ohioans for Workplace Freedom has already started collected signatures to put the amendment on the ballot by November 2012.

Ohio's next door neighbor, Indiana, became the first state in more than a decade to enact right-to-work laws in February 2012. Similar laws exist in 22 other states.