COLUMBUS -- It could have been a very interesting primary election season, with contested statewide races and Libertarians offering those weary of Republicans and Democrats a chance to voice their frustration.
Instead, we enter the spring early voting period with forgone conclusions on the outcomes and little competition in statewide races to pique residents' interest.
That sudden movement of air you felt came from the collective yawn of the voting public.
There was a point not too long ago where reporters were tripping over each other, trying to be the first to disclose potential Democratic and Republican challengers to endorsed or incumbent office-holders.
There were allegedly serious candidates considering runs against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Gov. John Kasich for their respective party nominations.
There were Libertarians fresh off a court victory over that Republican-backed election law that would have blocked them from participating in the primary. This was going to be the year that the powers were put in their place.
Then the filing deadline came and went. The supposedly serious statewide challengers disappeared, leaving incumbent Republicans and endorsed Democrats uncontested.
Yes, FitzGerald has a challenger who came out of nowhere to qualify for the ballot, but no one is giving Larry Ealy any legitimate chance at victory. Democrats are so unconcerned they're not even commenting on his candidacy.
There is one statewide issue on the ballot, a $1.9 billion bond issue for roads and bridge projects that has Democrats and Republicans holding hands and singing "Kumbaya." There's sparse opposition to the plan, and office-holders will tout the resulting projects to their constituents.
Libertarians, who forced Republicans' hand on that minor party legislation, didn't meet the requirements in state law to qualify for the primary ballot.
Barring court intervention, Charlie Earl and others won't have their names and party affiliation placed before voters through May 6, and they won't appear on the November general election ballot, either. That means, if they want to press the issue, they'll have to run a write-in campaign -- something that probably won't garner them the number of votes they would have received otherwise.
You could argue that the system is set up to block minor parties from making headway against the two major political parties. But it's hard to complain about the signature-gathering process when an unknown Democrat (Ealy) can manage to collect the required petitions and qualify for the ballot and the party with legal counsel and more (though not abundant) resources cannot.
What we're left with is a primary ballot offering little in the way of potential surprises for statewide candidates.
Granted, there are lots of local races to be decided in May and contested primaries for state lawmakers in some districts. And when faced with uncontested statewide races on the ballot, you could choose to refrain from voting for certain offices, thus voicing your disgust with the incumbents or the endorsed selections.
Maybe the lack of contested races is a blessing in disguise -- think of the number of robo-calls and campaign mailings that you won't have to deal with over the next few weeks.
(Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.)