One of the three candidates for Ohio’s 51st House District is trying to make her case to voters on television.
Candidate Sara Carruthers’ campaign has spent more than $76,000 for 269 ads on the four local television stations in the Cincinnati television market, the last of those ad buys will end today. She is trying to win the Republican nomination for the 51st House District seat in the May 8 primary.
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“It is unusual for Statehouse races to involve TV spots, but not unprecedented,” said Cedarville University political science professor Mark C. Smith.
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Carruthers is challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, and former state representative Greg Jolivette for the Republican nomination for the seat. . Carruthers has the endorsement of the Butler County Republican Party and Ohio Right to Life, but Retherford received the endorsement of the Ohio GOP and Cincinnati Right to Life.
The winner will face Democrat Susan Vaughn in November.
This is the first time since the 2014 election cycle that a Statehouse candidate purchased local network television ads in the Cincinnati market, though the Ohio House Republican Caucus made a media buys in 2016, including radio ads for Retherford. The House GOP caucus also made two media buys in 2014 for Retherford, which included mostly radio and some television ads.
Smith said he’s “heard rumblings” a couple of candidates in other Statehouse races will soon be utilizing television ads.
“The Cincinnati market makes sense, even if the district is smaller than the market,” he said of the estimated 119,000 residents in the 51st Ohio House district. “I think it remains to be seen how effective such ads will be. The primary electorate is already small, so swinging a few thousand votes, especially in a three-way race, can make a very large difference.”
If nothing else, Smith said, it will likely boost her name recognition “which is critical in that context.”
Carruthers alone has already spent three times as much in television ads as what Retherford spent in his 2016 re-election campaign (outside of the $57,000 in donations to the Ohio House Republican Caucus). And Carruthers said she intends to purchase more television ads in the final weeks of early voting.
Carruthers worked in television sales when she started working after college.
“TV to me is sort of just natural … that comes very natural to me,” she said. “I’m one of those kids that grew up with television, both figuratively and literally, so it was natural for me to say, ‘You know what, we need television ads.’”
Carruthers said she is also complementing her television ads with door-to-door contacts with voters, social media and mailers.
This newspaper doesn’t yet know who is contributing to Carruthers’ campaign. Her first campaign finance report in this race must be filed by April 26.
Her opponents don’t see the television helping, especially with the onslaught of television ads being purchased by the campaigns of the Republican candidates for Ohio governor.
“TV will increase her name ID, but it won’t buy her being prepared to do the job,” said Jolivette. “I firmly believe to be an effective state representative it is important to have a background in business or local government.”
Retherford said voters “will look through the money and the ads and see the best record.”
“As the only conservative in the race, I am the best choice in the Republican primary. With the current scandals involving wealthy insiders buying influence and power, I trust that voters of the 51st District cannot be bought.”
But Smith said the amount of money being spent in this and other local contests “is a little shocking.”
“They are starting to require independent wealth or significant fundraising prowess,” he said. “This is especially true in places where one party is dominant, so the primary is the de facto general election.”