WARREN — After losing for the first time in his 38-year political career, Michael J. O’Brien said he is weighing job offers from the private sector and may seek elected office again.
“I’m leaving my options open for the future in the public and private sector,” he said. “Being in the positions I’ve held in administration and as a legislator gives me keen insight into government. After the first of the year, we’ll see what the future holds. I’ve gotten employment offers.”
He declined to specify the job offers, but said they were for agencies that are involved with government.
O’Brien, 67, of Warren, couldn’t seek re-election to the Ohio House this year because of the state’s term limits law. Instead, he ran for Trumbull County commissioner, one of the previous elected positions he’s held.
O’Brien lost to Republican Denny Malloy 36,700 to 34,866.
During this election, every Democratic candidate on the ballot lost in Trumbull County. It was likely the first time that happened in Trumbull in about 90 years.
Trumbull has been a Democratic stronghold since 1936, but has seen Republicans gain significant ground during the past few years, culminating in the clean sweep in the Nov. 8 election.
The 48.69 percent that O’Brien received was more than any other Democrat running in a contested countywide race in all of Trumbull, including statewide candidates.
Before Malloy’s victory, O’Brien had won 28 straight elections dating back to 1981 for Warren council’s 4th Ward seat.
“It was the national narrative with the price of gasoline and the price of inflation,” O’Brien said of his loss. “So if you’re upset with that, vote Republican. The last time I checked, the county commissioners had nothing to do with either. You get caught up in a national narrative.”
He added: “A majority of the people in Trumbull County bought into the red wave. I had to outperform all the Democrats and I did, but it wasn’t enough.”
Malloy said he’s proud of beating O’Brien and Trumbull County “showed it is ready for a change” with the Republican sweep in the latest election.
“It’s a big change,” Malloy said. “There was a red wave, but had it not been for me doing the bingo halls and events and parades and going door to door, we wouldn’t have won. It’s not like we sat back and rode a red wave. O’Brien was undefeated in elections. There isn’t a bigger name in Mahoning Valley politics than O’Brien between him and his mother,” Margaret, a former county clerk of courts.
O’Brien’s political legacy — at least for the time being — ends Dec. 31, when his fourth two-year term in the Ohio House expires.
O’Brien nearly lost the 2020 election for the Ohio House seat, eking out a 344-vote win over Republican Martha Yoder, who was elected last month as county auditor. O’Brien won that 2020 election by 0.74 of a percent. That district, which has since been redrawn, included parts of Trumbull and Ashtabula counties.
O’Brien said he may run again for public office and it could come as early as next year. He heavily hinted at a bid for a Warren councilman at-Large seat, saying there would be an open spot with Councilman-at-Large Ken MacPherson announcing he would challenge Warren Mayor Doug Franklin in the Democratic primary in May 2023.
“I’m interested in serving the public,” O’Brien said. “In what capacity remains to be seen.”
O’Brien was first elected in 1981 to the 4th Ward seat on Warren City Council and then won a Warren at-large seat in 1987. O’Brien was then elected in 1992 to a county commissioner seat, leaving that on Jan. 1, 2004, after being elected Warren mayor two months prior.
O’Brien stepped away from politics after his second term as Warren mayor expired Dec. 31, 2011.
He served on the boards of various local organizations on a voluntary basis before returning to politics, successfully winning the first of four two-year terms in the Ohio House in November 2012.
“I’ve been successful for 38 years” in politics, O’Brien said. “Not too many people have had the career I’ve had.”