Tag Archives: Jim Renacci

Jockeying for Ohio’s Senate Seat

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 28, 2021 — Monday’s surprise announcement that Sen. Rob Portman (R) will not seek re-election next year has ignited a flurry of activity and speculation from potential candidates and political observers alike. Some looking to challenge Gov. Mike DeWine (R) are now also beginning to survey and assess how an open US Senate candidate field might unfold.

Recent voter history suggests that the eventual Republican nominee will at least begin the general election campaign in the favorite’s role. The GOP, with a large number of statewide office holders, former elected officials, and a dozen sitting US House members, has an array of candidates from which to choose, and many will take the plunge.

For example, former US Rep. Jim Renacci, who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 53-47 percent victory in the 2018 campaign and was reportedly looking to challenge Gov. DeWine in the 2022 Republican primary, may now set his sights on the open Senate seat.

Another ex-office holder, Pat Tiberi, who averaged 60.6 percent of the vote over nine elections from a Columbus area congressional district that former governor and presidential candidate John Kasich once held, still sits on more than $5 million in his federal campaign account even though he hasn’t been on the ballot since 2016.

It was widely believed that he was amassing a huge war chest to run against Sen. Brown in ’18, but family considerations led him to change his mind, resign from Congress and instead take the reins of the Ohio Business Roundtable.

Still another former elected official, ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who lost the 2012 Senate election to Sen. Brown, was planning to run again in 2018 until leaving the race because of his wife’s health issue. Mandel raised almost $20 million for his Senate race eight years ago and has over $4 million in his campaign account even though he has not been a federal candidate in eight years.

Republicans hold all of the state’s constitutional offices. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Attorney General Dave Yost, state Treasurer Robert Sprague, and State Auditor Keith Faber are all credible potential US Senate candidates.

Continue reading

House: IE Money Flying

The American left and right, including their respective major party organizations, are again spending abundantly in certain House races as we enter the final week of the campaign. In fact, according to new Federal Election Commission independent expenditure (IE) filings just made public, the two sides (House party organizations coupled with outside group spending) have combined to spend $26.4 million during just the Oct. 27-29 period. Of this total, Republican/conservative groups have spent a tick under $14 million, while the Democrats and liberal organizations have spent $12.5 million. Remember, all of these expenditures cover only a three-day period.

The top two races receiving monetary attention in this critical time frame are in New Hampshire, where Rep. Frank Guinta (NH-1-R) is defending the seat he won from ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) in 2010. In just the past three days, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has laid down $1.037 million on Shea-Porter’s behalf, mostly for media expenditures on negative ads against Rep. Guinta. Countering that number is the American Action Network, which dropped $637,000 to fund either positive Guinta or negative Shea-Porter ads.

The top Republican recipient is Illinois Rep. Judy Biggert who is having a difficult time in a radically redistricted seat that Democratic leaders designed to defeat her. She opposes former Rep. Bill Foster (D), who lost his 14th District seat in 2010. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spent $837,000 on Biggert’s behalf, while the DCCC countered with $743,000 to help Foster.

At least one other incumbent race is seeing combined party and group spending exceed seven figures for this short period. Minnesota Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-8) has witnessed the NRCC and the American Action Network (AAN) combine to spend more than $1 million in his heavily Democratic district. Another such CD is the open IL-13 seat that Rep. Tim Johnson (R) is vacating. Republicans and the AAN dropped more than $850,000 here for Rodney Davis as compared to the DCCC’s $329,000 to help their nominee, Dr. David Gill.

The AAN spent more than $500,000 apiece in California (Rep. Jeff Denham, R-CA-10) and Nevada (Rep. Joe Heck, R-NV-3), in addition to the Guinta and Cravaack races, while the House Majority Fund dropped major six-figure expenditures to help New York Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY-1) hold his Long Island CD and over $400,000 to help Connecticut Democrat Elizabeth Esty fend off a strong challenge from Republican state Sen. Andrew Roraback in the seat that Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) is vacating to run for the Senate.

A couple of surprise protects are popping up late for both sides. Democrats, particularly when seeing almost $1 million go toward independent expenditures in Michigan’s 1st CD that contains the state’s Upper Peninsula, believe they have a strong chance to unseat freshman Rep. Dan Benishek. Another strong sleeper campaign might be found in the Orlando area, as the DCCC is dropping more than $427,000 in order to help elect former police chief Val Demings over freshman Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10) in Florida.

Democrats are surprisingly spending copiously in Arizona and New York to fend off what they see are serious threats to freshman Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) and two-term Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-21).

Republicans believe they have a great closing shot to maintain the new 1st District in Arizona, and to defeating Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA-12) who won a brutal primary battle against fellow Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4), only to find himself in a relatively strong Republican seat.

No surprise that the IL-17 contest between freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) and local East Moline official Cheri Bustos (D) is hotly contested, as is the inter-party pairing in Ohio between Reps. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13) and Jim Renacci (R-OH-16). Both of these campaigns are considered toss-ups.

Of the top 10 races where Democrats are spending, three are to protect incumbents. On the Republican board, five of their top 10 expenditure races are for individuals already serving in the House.

Incumbent Pairing Too Close to Call in OH-16

Sutton | Renacci


In Ohio’s only general election congressional race pitting two incumbent members against each other, a new poll reveals a very tight contest with tremendously high stakes.

A GBA Strategies internal poll (July 15-19; 500 likely OH-16 voters; margin of error plus-or-minus 4.4 percentage points) conducted for Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton shows her to be in a statistical dead-heat against GOP freshman Rep. Jim Renacci. The data gives Sutton 42 percent as compared to Renacci’s 40 percent.

Surprisingly, Libertarian candidate Jeff Blevins is taking a sizable 12 percent of the sampled voters. This latter number causes some to question the poll’s methodology because, for a sole independent candidate, these figures are much higher than what is normally seen. Third-party candidates have shown to typically under-perform in their poll results, so it is likely his actual vote total will return to the low single-digit percentages that are normally recorded for such candidates. Interestingly, GBA projects Blevins to be drawing his support equally from both Democrats and Republicans.

The current results show little change from GBA’s October poll that projected the race to be tied, with each candidate attracting 45 percent of the vote. Blevins, however, was not factored into the earlier poll. The numbers are also in line with a June poll from Normington Petts & Associates, a Democratic survey research firm, that found Sutton to be leading Renacci 41-38 percent. In July, the Democratic-leaning House Majority PAC further confirmed Sutton and Renacci were statistically tied at 40 percent, with Blevins taking a much smaller share of the vote.

The 2011 redistricting plan paired Sutton and Renacci as a result of Ohio losing two congressional seats in reapportionment due to slow population growth. With a Republican legislature in control of the redistricting pen, the two were placed in a seat that favors Renacci in a head-to-head race with Sutton. Renacci carries over 41.8 percent residents from his current seat, while Sutton has far fewer constituents in the new 16th. Her carry-over figure is half that of Renacci’s, at 20.6 percent.

With polling leaving us in a statistically deadlocked race, we turn to the importance of spending and fundraising. Renacci was the stronger fundraiser last quarter according to the latest Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports (closed June 30). He reported raising approximately $502,000 compared to Sutton’s $293,000. Additionally, Renacci ended the quarter with approximately $1.5 million cash on hand, compared to Sutton’s $900,000. Contrary to 2010 when the Republican self-contributed more than $752,000, this year he has only invested $2,500 into his re-election campaign.

Both campaigns and outside liberal and conservative groups already have reserved millions of dollars in TV advertising time in the Cleveland media market. Groups such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) already have reserved over $3 million in Cleveland ad time and similarly the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) as well as other groups has reserved $2 million buys thus far.

This member vs. member match-up has been a tight battle since the seat was redrawn and guarantees to be a horse race until the end. Both candidates have the experience, resources, outside support, and staff to run strong campaigns. OH-16 is considered to be a top race for both the DCCC and NRCC this fall, so stay tuned.

Republican-Held CDs: A Vulnerability Analysis

The House Majority PAC, run by a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee political director who served under then-chairman Rahm Emanuel, released the findings of Public Policy Polling vulnerability surveys for eight Republican-held congressional seats (all conducted during the Jan. 18-23 period). It is not known in exactly how many districts the PAC polled, but these eight will undoubtedly be competitive and obviously fare the best for Democrats among those tested.

Though the release was done in the context of making the GOP incumbents look as vulnerable as possible, looking beyond the numbers and overlaying the new district lines tells, perhaps, a different story in many of these targeted CDs.

The eight are:

• CO-3: Rep. Scott Tipton (R), 46% vs. Sal Pace (D), 39% – The 3rd District of Colorado is commonly described as the Western Slope seat. The region encompasses the mountainous western part of the state but comes east along the state’s southern border to capture the Democratic city and county of Pueblo. Because the split-control Colorado legislature was unable to produce a new congressional map, the subsequent de novo court map kept the integrity of the district intact and made the swing seat lean just one more point toward the Democrats. Sal Pace is the state House minority leader and expected to be a strong challenger. Scott Tipton is a freshman who defeated three-term Democratic Rep. John Salazar in the last election 50-46 percent. This is expected to be a close race, but since the Republican presidential nominee usually carries this region, Tipton might get a point or two bump. At this point, a 46-39 percent spread for numbers released by a Democratic Super PAC are not too bad for the incumbent Republican in a district that traditionally features tight congressional contests.

• IL-8: Rep. Joe Walsh, 35% (R) vs. Generic D, 49% – The two Democratic contenders in this new district are former US Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth and ex-Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi. The generic ballot question suggests that Democrats have a strong chance of unseating freshman Rep. Joe Walsh here, in a Democratic redraw that was designed to do just that. Walsh’s decision to run in the new 8th instead of facing a GOP incumbent pairing with fellow freshman Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) is highly questionable. Despite House Republican leadership promising to raise Walsh millions of dollars if he were to run in the 8th District, the demographic and political numbers paint an unpleasant picture regarding the freshman’s chances. Expect the Democratic nominee, likely Duckworth, to romp in the general election. The PPP generic poll has a high probability of being accurate.

• IA-4: Rep. Steve King (R), 49% vs. Christie Vilsack (D), 43% – Rep. Steve King’s 5th District, now labeled #4, is quite different under the new redistricting design, as the state lost a seat in reapportionment. Instead of occupying the entire western side of Iowa from north to south, the new 4th CD keeps only his north-central western base and now travels as far east as Mason City, Charles City, and New Hampton. The seat is generally Republican, but King has drawn a challenge from Christie Vilsack (D), wife of US Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. She will have all the campaign resources she needs to run a competitive race. Since Vilsack likely has higher name ID throughout the entire district than does Rep. King, a 49-43 percent spread in the congressman’s favor is not particularly bad news for he and the GOP.

• MD-6: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R), 42% vs. Generic D, 42% – One of the biggest redistricting victims in the United States is 85-year old Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R). He has seen his district go from a 58 percent McCain performance to a 56 percent Obama number with the addition of more highly Democratic precincts in Montgomery County. Under the new district lines, Rep. Bartlett is a clear underdog in the general election, assuming he survives an eight-person Republican primary. Considering the drastic nature of the redraw, pulling dead even in what is now a decidedly Democratic district is actually a surprisingly good showing for the GOP incumbent.

• MI-1: Rep. Dan Benishek (R), 41% vs. Gary McDowell (D), 46% – Rep. Benishek is trailing by five in a new district that is slightly more Republican than the one in which he defeated then-state Rep. Gary McDowell (D) 52-41 percent in 2010; and that is a sign of trouble. Though the seat was held by Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak for 18 years, the voting history of northern Michigan is hospitable to Republicans. Therefore, a poll showing Benishek already trailing McDowell, who just announced he was going to run again in September, should be a cause for concern among Benishek and the northern Michigan Republican party.

• OH-6: Rep. Bill Johnson (R), 42% vs. Charlie Wilson (D), 41% – Though Ohio loses two congressional districts, the configuration of the 6th District that hugs the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders all the way from East Liverpool and Steubenville down to and through Scioto County stays virtually intact under the new Buckeye State map. The seat juts west on I-70 at Cambridge in order to pick up some new Republican voters to give Johnson some help. The freshman congressman’s opponent is former two-term Rep. Charlie Wilson, who Johnson defeated 50-45 percent in 2010. A one-point polling margin is what one would expect in this district featuring two well-known candidates at such an early point in the election cycle. The new OH-6 race is likely to remain close all the way to Election Day.

• OH-7: Rep. Bob Gibbs (R), 42% vs. Generic D, 43% – The new 7th District is a radical redraw from the current 18th CD that elected freshman Rep. Bob Gibbs. Instead of stretching south from the central part of the state, the new 7th moves north to grab the city of Canton, sweeps around new District 16 in a horseshoe-shaped fashion to pick up the city of Ashland on the west, and then travels north all the way to Lake Erie. The new district should elect a Republican, but Gibbs is unfamiliar to a large number of voters. The fact that he is virtually dead-even on the generic ballot question is not particularly bad news for the new congressman. Once he becomes better known throughout the entire new district, and is paired with a live Democratic candidate instead of a party label, his ballot test numbers should dramatically improve.

• OH-16: Rep. Jim Renacci (R), 46% vs. Rep. Betty Sutton (D), 46% – The 16th District doesn’t much resemble either GOP Rep. Renacci’s current 16th CD, nor Rep. Sutton’s 13th District. Renacci represents a greater proportion of the new district, but it only slightly leans Republican. Therefore, it is not particularly surprising that the two candidates are starting on even footing. This is another race that will be hard-fought. Because Sutton’s political base was split among several districts, forcing her to begin again from scratch, she faces the more difficult path to re-election. OH-16 is one of just three districts in the nation so far that features an inter-party incumbent pairing. The other two are CA-32, with Reps. Grace Napolitano (D) and David Dreier (R) facing off – though it is highly unlikely that the Republican will run here – and IA-3, with Reps. Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) lining up against each other.

Redistricting Updates: Illinois, Ohio & Pennsylvania

A quick update on the redistricting front in a few states:

Illinois

The federal three-judge panel in Illinois rejected the Republican lawsuit against the state’s new 18-district congressional map. This means the Democrats’ maximum map will stand and elections throughout the decade will be conducted in these districts. The GOP’s last option is to appeal this decision. All Voting Rights Act cases are appealed directly to the US Supreme Court. The Democrats could gain as many as four seats in the Land of Lincoln next year.

Ohio

The Ohio Republicans were able to secure a two-thirds vote in each house of their legislature to pass their altered congressional redistricting map. The legislation must now go to Gov. John Kasich (R) for his signature. The new plan only slightly changes the Columbus area and leaves the remaining boundaries intact. The state loses two seats in reapportionment.

Three sets of incumbent pairings will occur. Democrats Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) will face each other in new District 9 that stretches from Toledo to Cleveland. Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH-3) and Steve Austria (R-OH-7) are paired in new District 10. And, finally, Reps. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13) and Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) are opposing each other in new District 16. In addition to the pairings, one former member, ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-OH-6), has already announced his intention to seek a re-match with freshman Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH-6) in the revamped 6th District, which will be more friendly to a Republican candidate.

The plan is designed to elect twelve Republicans and four Democrats. The congressional primaries are now re-instated for March 6, as was originally intended. With Texas now almost assuredly moving to later in the year, the Ohio congressional primaries will now be the first in the nation.

Pennsylvania

A day after the proposed Pennsylvania congressional redistricting map was released to the public, it passed through the state Senate, but by only one vote. It must now clear the state House of Representatives and be signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

The map is designed to elect possibly as many as 13 Republicans in the 18 districts. Seven of the districts are strongly Republican. In five more, GOP incumbents are present, but President Obama carried the particular district in 2008. The five holding the marginal seats are: Reps. Jim Gerlach (CD 6 – Obama: 53), Pat Meehan (CD 7 – Obama: 51), Mike Fitzpatrick (CD 8 – Obama: 53), Charlie Dent (CD 15 – Obama: 52), and Joe Pitts (CD 16 – Obama: 50). In one seat, the new 12th CD that features a pairing of Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Mark Critz (D-PA-12), President Obama only tallied 45 percent of the vote, meaning that the winner of what promises to be a tough Democratic primary will also face a highly competitive general election. The Pennsylvania primary is scheduled for May 17.