Obama group to spend millions on Ohio elections this year

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 9:39 AM

Former President Barack Obama. Getty Image
Former President Barack Obama. Getty Image

A Democratic group backed by former President Barack Obama said this week it plans to invest millions of dollars in state-level elections in 11 states this year, with its heaviest focus on Ohio.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, said this year’s election cycle is critical to affecting the congressional redistricting process. It is the first cycle whose winners will participate in drawing congressional maps for the decade starting in 2021.

RELATED: Who is running for the Ohio House and Senate?

The push comes amid bipartisan national concern that political gerrymandering, the process of drawing maps that benefit one party over another, has led to partisanship, gridlock and incivility in Washington.

“In 2011, Republicans created gerrymandered districts that locked themselves into power and shut out voters from the electoral process,” Holder said in announcing the group’s electoral targets on Wednesday. “By focusing on these state and local races, we can ensure Democrats who will fight for fairness have a seat at the table when new maps are drawn in 2021.”

The group is targeting races in 11 states, including nine gubernatorial races, 18 legislative chambers, two ballot initiatives and two down-ballot races. Eight more states are on the committee’s watch list.

RELATED: DeWine has big lead in governor money race

In Ohio, a perennial political battleground, the committee plans to support Democrats for five offices — governor, auditor, secretary of state, Ohio Senate and Ohio House — as well as pushing a redistricting ballot measure.

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Trump action on guns: Brown, Kasich, Ohio leaders react

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 8:43 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 8:43 PM

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown

Sen. Sherrod Brown called President Donald Trump’s effort Tuesday to ban devices that convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic guns “long overdue,” but said “more has to be done to protect Americans” against the growing number of mass shootings in schools.

Brown, D-Ohio, said “weapons of war do not belong on our streets,” and called for a ban on what is known as the gun show loophole which critics charge allow people to buy guns at a show without rigorous background checks.

Brown insisted he “respects” the rights of hunters and collectors and “no one intends to take away their guns. But when our children are not safe in their schools, it’s clear more has to be done to protect Americans against gun violence.”

By contrast, Rep. Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington, who heads the House Republican re-election campaign, voiced “support” for Trump’s decision, adding modifications such as bump stocks “only serve to spread shots in as wide of range and as quickly as possible, providing no legitimate sporting use and have no place in our communities.”

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, offered a more cautious approach. Kevin Smith said “Rob supports” the review by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms “and he looks forward to their decision.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich tweeted Tuesday: “Let’s give credit where credit is due. This is absolutely the right thing to do, and hopefully more will follow.”

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Ohio Secretary of State race to get national attention as 2020 looms

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 10:28 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 10:28 AM

Kathleen Clyde and Frank LaRose
Kathleen Clyde and Frank LaRose

With Republicans holding two-thirds of secretary of state offices including Ohio, Democrats are focusing renewed attention and money on a statewide post once considered a sleepy political stepping stone, acknowledging they’re playing catch-up with the GOP.

The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State has been motivated by what it considers efforts by some GOP secretaries to limit voter participation and unfairly pare voter rolls — allegations the GOP denies. The organization plans to raise money and provide guidance to a handful of candidates in 2018, likely in populous states that could prove important in the 2020 presidential election.

RELATED: Who is running for governor?

“We’re looking around to see where we have viable candidates and where the registration will be favorable, probably in swing states, places where until recently they did have a Democratic secretary of state, where legislation has been passed that would be what we consider oppressive,” said Denise Merrill, the Connecticut secretary of state and the chairwoman of the Democratic secretaries of state association.

The Democrats will start out relatively small in this year’s election, hoping to amass about $1 million, Merrill said. The association is considering targeting races in Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico and other states with open seats or Democrats seeking re-election.

Republicans, meanwhile, are looking to hold or win secretary of state seats in places like Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Alaska.

Republican and Democratic secretaries alike have voiced concerns about Russian influence on the 2016 elections and demands for voter information from Republican President Donald Trump’s now-disbanded election fraud commission. But a battle has developed in some states over voter fraud, voter identification requirements and purging of voter rolls.

Secretaries of state, which function as a state’s top election official, burst into public consciousness on a grand scale when the disputed 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore orbited around Florida’s Katherine Harris.

“People woke up and realized that there’s a lot of power in the secretary of state’s office, electoral power,” said Merrill, who has been traveling the country to raise money from donors, including wealthy Democrats and labor unions. She credited Republicans with making a targeted approach about a decade ago, pumping millions of dollars into secretary of state races in key states.

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“It made a huge difference, and suddenly there was a swing of 10 seats in 2010 alone,” Merrill said. “It happened fairly quickly. But I think it can be reversed to some extent, because we are now paying attention.”

Ohio is pivotal

Depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules, the next secretary of state in Ohio, always pivotal in presidential elections, could decide whether to continue pruning voter rolls by targeting people who haven’t voted in a while.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, the Democratic secretary of state candidate here, is running for an open seat against Republican state Sen. Frank LaRose. If the Supreme Court upholds pruning, which proponents argue is needed to prevent fraud, Clyde has vowed to stop it, maintaining voters’ names have been illegally removed.

She has already been endorsed by national groups such as Emily’s List, which works to elect Democratic women. She predicts it will be a multimillion-dollar race that attracts a lot of outside money.

Big money

The Republican State Leadership Committee, which focuses on state races and oversees the Republican Secretaries of State Committee, spent nearly $30 million in 2010 on state races, including secretaries of state, records show.

A “battle of ideologies” has been happening for a while concerning the integrity of elections, said Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

There has been “a concerted effort by liberal and progressive interests to have a dialogue about election procedures,” he said, mentioning groups like iVote.

On its website, iVote said it first “went on offense by working to elect pro-voting secretaries of state in key battleground states” in 2014, noting it supports candidates that “encourage participation by expanding access for eligible voters.”

But accusations that Republican secretaries of state are trying to suppress voter turnout, especially among minority groups, to ultimately benefit GOP candidates “sound like the crocodile tears of people who failed to run good candidate who had good visions for their states,” Walter said.

He insisted GOP candidates want to make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat” by taking steps such as removing outdated information from voter lists.

“When you clean those things up,” he said, “you remove the possibility for people who are attempting to intrude into the voting process, and you also remove innocent errors.”

By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press

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Mike Turner wants groomsman, fellow congressman deposed in divorce hearings

Published: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 10:43 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 @ 12:16 PM

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner files for divorce

Dayton Congressman Mike Turner wants California Congressman Darrell Issa deposed in his divorce proceedings, according to POLITICO.

Turner filed for divorce from his wife Majida Mourad after a year and a half of marriage.

Issa was a groomsman at the wedding in Dayton in 2015.

POLITICO says Turner gave Issa a letter in the Capitol last week asking him to give a deposition, according to unnamed sources.

We have reached out to Congressman Turner’s office for a response.

YOU CAN READ THE FULL POLITICO STORY HERE

Mourad’s attorney, Sanford Ain, said in a statement to POLITICO Monday that Turner “may have” told “third parties” that she was unfaithful, “thinking it would advantage him in the divorce.” But any claim of infidelity by Mourad “has no basis in fact,” Ain said.

Darrell Issa and Mike Turner. Ap Photo by J Scott Applewhite

“Because it has been raised, Ms. Mourad was never unfaithful to Congressman Turner during the marriage, before or after Congressman Turner filed for divorce. Any allegation of her being unfaithful to Congressman Turner is simply false and defamatory,” Ain said.

POLITICO reports that Mourad and Issa have been friends for 20 years, but there is nothing more to their relationship, according a a source close to Mourad.

“There is no truth whatsoever to these allegations,” Issa said in a statement.

RELATED: 5 things to know about Congressman Mike Turner’s soon-to-be-ex-wife

Turner filed for divorce in May and asked that Mourad be restrained from taking any of their assets, according to a divorce filing made in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

Congressman Mike Turner(Associated Press)

RELATED: Turner says fiancee’s business dealings pose no conflict

“Ms. Turner is guilty of a fraudulent contract,” according to the filing, which does not elaborate on what that means.

Mourad was a registered lobbyist for the liquid natural gas export company Cheniere Energy Inc.

RELATED: Mike Turner files for divorce

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Ohio Republican Party endorses DeWine for governor; Renacci for Senate

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 1:17 PM
Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 2:47 PM


            Mike DeWine and Jim Renacci
Mike DeWine and Jim Renacci

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mary Taylor laced into her primary opponent, Mike DeWine, in a 4-minute speech to the Ohio Republican Party state central committee on Friday, calling DeWine a “shill for the entrenched special interests.”

“He’s a career politician who has been on the state ballot in each of the last five decades, and has a liberal voting record as long as the line of babies he has kissed and hands he has shook,” she said. “After 42 years on the public dole, he is soft on protecting your second amendment rights, soft on getting conservative judges appointed, and soft on immigration.”

She warned the Ohio GOP against the DeWine “coronation” and backing a candidate whose “entire campaign is based on the air of inevitability.”

Then she lost the state party endorsement.

Related: Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor says she hasn’t spoken to Kasich in a year

The committee voted 59-2 to back DeWine and his running mate Jon Husted. DeWine had no comment on Taylor’s speech, other than to say voters don’t want to hear internal squabbles.

Related: DeWine has big money lead in governor’s race

Another fight played out over who would get the endorsement in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate: multi-millionaire business owner and political newcomer Mike Gibbons or multi-millionaire business owner and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth.

Renacci won it with 46 votes while Gibbons earned three votes and Columbus area businesswoman Melissa Ackison received two votes.

Gibbons missed the meeting because he attended a ceremony at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida for his son Ryan Gibbons, who was earning his Naval Aviator wings. Speaking on his behalf was former state lawmaker Joy Padgett who said “Ohio primary voters should determine who the Republican nominee for United States Senate should be…Let the primary process proceed.”

Padgett discounted rumors that the National Republican Senate Committee would only back Renacci in the general election against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown. Padgett said it is “simply an empty threat. It doesn’t pass the smell test. This is Ohio.”

Renacci, back in Ohio after voting in the early morning hours for a federal budget package, said he has a proven track record of beating incumbent Democrats and asked the 66-member Ohio GOP central committee to back him. “Together we can send Sherrod Brown packing forever,” he said.

Piling up endorsements helps politicos show their strength and the biggest plum is if a candidate can land backing from the state party, which often brings foot soldiers, funding and other logistical support.

Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Murphy Timken, who took over party leadership a year ago with a pledge of not picking winners or losers, said the endorsements were the decision of the committee — not the chair. “From my perspective preventing an endorsement is just as much of tipping the scales as pushing for an endorsement. It was a fair and open process,” she said.

Related: Ohio Senate passes major changes to congressional redistricting

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper delighted in the Republican Party’s internal squabbles.

“As DeWine and Taylor trade barbs in the press, the Ohio Republican primary continues to be a nasty, chaotic and divisive race to the extreme right, with the candidates dueling for the blessing of Donald Trump, while running away from John Kasich. Whoever wins this primary will have to deal with the wreckage of a divided Ohio Republican Party,” he said in a written release.

Taylor said recently that DeWine and Husted are out of touch and she wouldn’t vote for DeWine.

The committee also voted to endorse: Dave Yost for attorney general, Keith Faber for auditor, and Frank LaRose for secretary of state. The committee voted to back state Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, over Ashtabula County Republican Sandy O’Brien in the state treasurer’s race.

O’Brien, who lost a statewide race for treasurer to Democrat Rich Cordray in 2006, told the central committee that just 13 of 107 Republicans holding statewide or legislative office are women and there is an “institutional bias” in endorsements and funding that works against female candidates.

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