Lang far outspends Ohio Senate opponents, starts general election campaign in hole

Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., will face Kathy Wyenandt, a Liberty Twp. Democrat, in the November general election for the 4th Ohio Senate District seat. FILE
Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., will face Kathy Wyenandt, a Liberty Twp. Democrat, in the November general election for the 4th Ohio Senate District seat. FILE

Ohio Rep. George Lang spent more than $450,000 since July 1, 2019, nearly three times as much as his two opponents combined in winning the GOP nomination for the 4th Ohio Senate District seat.

He also raised nearly five times as much money over that timeframe than Ohio Rep. Candice Keller and West Chester Twp. Trustee Lee Wong, though he heads into the general election in the hole by more than $13,500, according to campaign finance reports. He trails his general election opponent, Liberty Twp. Democrat Kathy Wyenandt, in available funds, as she has more than $35,000 on hand.

Fundraising reporting deadlines for candidates in the 2020 primary was extended six weeks, coinciding with the extended election due to the concerns of the novel coronavirus. The primary was abruptly halted and forced the state to cancel in-person voting to an all vote-by-mail election, with very few exceptions.

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Last week, the Ohio House approved a bill establishing a plan in case election procedures need to be altered due to a pandemic. But the bill would prevent a public official from changing the date of the election.

The bill was opposed by the Ohio Association of Election Officials and voting rights advocates. House Democrats say the bill would make voting harder in Ohio.

House Bill 680 goes on to the Ohio Senate, but Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose will make “minor changes in the way we run elections in Ohio so that we can be ready for November.”

One of the significant changes is moving the absentee ballot request deadline to seven days before the general election. Currently, the deadline is three days prior to Election Day.

The 2020 primary did cost boards of elections more money. The Butler County Board of Elections, for example, spent an estimated $183,500 in additional costs because of all-mail-in voting changes, but it saved an estimated $102,400 items and services no longer needed, officials said.

“Yes, the six additional weeks cost us more money because we had additional staff here the whole time,” said Butler County elections Deputy Director Eric Corbin. “It still would have cost us more because we did not have enough supplies on hand because we were expecting a lower turnout.”

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He said an all-mail November is “hard to estimate” but does not think that’s likely. If it happens, additional staff, supplies and hardware would be needed.

As the Nov. 3 general election approaches, fundraising among candidates will start to increase.

Even though he ended the 2020 primary with a negative fund balance, Lang, a West Chester Twp. Republican, has raised tens of thousands of dollars in previous fundraisers and most of his campaign contributions are four- and five-figure donations.

He has also said he would loan his campaign up to six figures of his own money.

Wyenandt invested her own family’s money into her 2018 campaign and was one of the top-fundraising Democrats when she ran against Lang for the 52nd Ohio House seat, according to state campaign finance reports.

In the 2020 rematch, this time for Ohio’s 4th Senate District seat, Wyenandt will start ahead of Lang. Her campaign finance reports show her with a balance of $35,100 after spending more than $93,600 since July 1, 2019. She was unopposed in the Democratic Party nomination.

The next campaign finance report is due Oct. 22 for activity through Oct. 14.