campaigns weigh strategic options if Ohio primary is delayed | New Policies

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By JULIE CARR SMYTH and JILL COLVIN, Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — After months of build-up, Ohio’s primary in May was meant to usher in a busier phase of the political season, when voters would begin lining up behind party winners in the races. fall for control of Congress, governorships and keys. election offices across the United States.

Instead, the campaign season in Ohio drifted into something close to a state of suspended animation.

A series of court rulings invalidating Republican-drawn redistricting maps threatens to delay the May 3 primary by a month or more. There’s even a chance the election will be split into two dates, with one focusing on statewide races and the other on Statehouse and Congressional contests tied to the fight for power. cartography.

A three-judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will convene on Friday to hear arguments on whether to go ahead with the primary. If the primary ends up being delayed, candidates vying for governor, the U.S. Senate, and other statewide offices may need to alter their fundraising, advertising, and marketing strategies. outreach to voters just when they thought they were nearing the end of the primary campaign.

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“Launching a campaign is like running a marathon,” said Ryan Stubenrauch, a Republican consultant from Ohio. “They thought the finish line was May 3. It’s like halfway through, they say, ‘We’re not going to run 26 miles. We’ll run 50 miles instead. It’s a pretty big adjustment.

The political and legal wrangling is the result of the once-a-decade redistricting process that all states must go through to reflect the demographic changes recorded in the census. Most states have finalized their political maps, and Ohio’s redistricting process was expected to be completed last fall. But in decision after decision, the Ohio Supreme Court found that the maps of the GOP-dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission were unconstitutionally drawn to improperly favor Republicans.

Ohio’s primary date gave the state one of the earliest voting contests in this year’s midterm elections. A change would allow other states, including Pennsylvania and Georgia, to show the types of candidates voters of both parties are choosing to qualify for the November general election.

Ohio’s contest to replace retired U.S. Senator Rob Portman, a Republican, is seen as a test of former President Donald Trump’s influence in reshaping the party.

The commission has enlisted two new unanimously chosen cartographers to help break the deadlock as it faces a Monday deadline to fix legislative maps. The state is awaiting another High Court decision on the fate of its congressional districts after the commission’s second attempt at a constitutional map was again challenged as partisan.

A delay is not inevitable. On Thursday, Ohio’s Supreme Court denied a request by state Democrats to postpone the primary to June 28.

Other people, including at least one Republican candidate, have suggested pushing the date back to August.

Behind the scenes, campaigns and party leaders juggle the sometimes competing interests of candidates. Favorites usually want the primary to happen while they’re in the lead; underdogs tend to want more time to make their case to voters.

That push-pull may have played a role in the Legislature’s provocative refusal to move the date of the primaries, as only it — or a court — can, leaving the state’s election chief to order ongoing adjustments to primary preparations required by law.

Former U.S. Representative Jim Renacci, one of two main challengers behind Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in the polls, has come out in favor of postponing the primary for months.

“Having a primary in August will give the court time to sort out the redistricting mess, the military ballots can come out in time, and taxpayers won’t have to pay the extra $20 or $30 million for the primaries in May and in August,” Renacci said in a statement: “I am generally opposed to moving the primaries, but that involves taxpayers’ money, and the only people who benefit from two primaries are the incumbents who want to end the election and impose the cost on the taxpayers of Ohio.”

In the contentious GOP primary for the U.S. Senate, some of the wealthiest candidates funding their own campaigns would appear to have an advantage over candidates who rely on traditional fundraising if the primary were to be moved back.

State and federal campaign finance laws limit the amount an individual donor can contribute during each election cycle. The primary is one such cycle, the general election another. So financially well-off donors often gave the maximum allowable contribution to their preferred candidate at this stage of the primary cycle, Stubenrauch said, with the idea of ​​giving back on May 4.

Millionaire candidates, like some in the Senate race, can put as much of their own money into federal races as they want.

Cleveland investment banker Mike Gibbons and state senator Matt Dolan, whose family owns baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, use their considerable personal fortunes to fund their Senate campaigns. Former state GOP chairwoman Jane Timken, former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel and “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance are relying on donor money.

“Everything from booking millions of dollars on TV to ditching direct mail to booking event venues could be instantly impacted by a changing primary date, and campaigns that have the resources that drive the versatility and flexibility will naturally have an advantage over the duration of the contest,” said Chris Maloney, a Dolan strategist.

A delay would give Trump, who has stayed on the sidelines despite being desperately courted by a handful of candidates, extra time to make a decision that could fundamentally alter the race.

“It’s a huge factor,” David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, which backs Mandel with big spending, said of Trump’s endorsement.

For now, several aides have said the campaigns are proceeding as if the primary will be held on May 3 – with those hanging around hoping to have enough time to catch up with the frontrunners, whether the race is in six weeks, five months or six month. from now on.

Morgan Harper, who is challenging US Representative Tim Ryan for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate, called the Legislature’s reluctance to postpone the primary “deeply irresponsible”. She said the state should not hold split primaries, which some estimates would cost taxpayers an additional $20 million.

“If a series of primaries move, they should all move,” she said in a statement. “Otherwise it would be confusing for voters and unnecessary for taxpayers.”

Harper said the “lack of a firm date has confused voters and volunteers, and it has implications for every aspect of the campaign, from fieldwork to fundraising.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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