Ohio Republican Primary Election Turns Nasty

Political consultants of all stripes agree that negative advertisement in campaigns work.  Well, the 2018 Ohio Republican Primary Election is working to be one of the nastiest in recent history—from the Governor’s race to Treasurer of State to the battle for who will be the next Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives.

First, the Republican Primary for Governor seemed to be set up to avoid a Primary fight when Ohio Secretary of State and former Speaker of the Ohio House of Representative Jon Husted ended his strong campaign for Governor and agreed to join Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine as his Lt. Governor candidate.  Congressman Jim Renacci shifted to run for the U.S. Senate and most Statehouse pundits thought Governor Kasich’s Lt. Governor Mary Taylor would not challenge Dewine.  The Statehouse pundits were wrong.  Mary Taylor is running an aggressive and nearly an entirely negative campaign against Mike Dewine.  Taylor’s television ads have made no effort to promote her own vision for the state but instead are attaching the long voting record of Mike Dewine based upon his service in the United States Senate.  The Dewine campaign opted not to let the charges go unanswered and launched multiple negative ads about Mary Taylor calling into question her ethics.  While Dewine is leading the most public opinion polls, Taylor is obviously making some inroads or why would the Dewine campaign attack her.  Dewine has a substantial fundraising lead even with this current spending on the Primary Campaign.

The state Treasurer campaign is a rewind of the 2006 Republican Primary campaign when appointed Treasurer Jennette Bradley was defeated by Ashtabula County Treasurer Sandra O’Brien.  O’Brien appealed to the conservative Republican base and benefitted from her Irish surname.  O’Brien was crushed by then Franklin County Treasurer and now Gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray.  Many argue Bradley, as a leading African American Republican, former Columbus City Council member and Lt. Governor, could have defeated Cordray and ended his statewide elective career.  Sandy O’Brien is back.  This time she is running against Findley’s State Representative Robert Sprague who also is the former Findlay City Auditor.  Republican down-ticket races, other than the Treasurer’s race, avoided Primary battles.  Sprague was not so lucky and the Republican establishment is working overtime to avoid another 2006 debacle.

Speaking of debacles, that is the only term that can describe the campaign for who becomes elected the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives.  The Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives is elected by a majority vote of the members of the Ohio House.  Rep. Larry Householder served as Speaker from 2001-04 and wants the office back.  Current Ohio House Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith is doing all he can to stop that.  Unlike most leadership fights, this battle has spilled over into the 2018 Primary Election with millions of dollars raised and spent for and against Householder and Smith supported candidates.  In fact, Householder himself faces a challenging Primary Election.  Just to make things worse and as an outgrowth of the leadership fight, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and supporter of Ryan Smith was driven out of office by ethics questions and a potential FBI investigation.  Now, following the Primary Election, the Ohio House will need to meet to pick a new Speaker—with wounds fresh from the Primary Election this may prove a challenge.  No matter who the winner is, the Ohio House of Representative as an institution will be weaken through the balance of 2018.