Ohio’s open 8th Congressional District seat has been called a “once in a generation opportunity” by some seeking the seat held for a quarter-century by former House Speaker John Boehner.
In addition to attracting a field of 15 Republican candidates alone, more than $2 million in advertising has been spent by outside political action committees and legislative groups to put their preferred candidate in office.
The top four fundraising candidate campaigns — State Sen. Bill Beagle, Warren Davidson, State Rep. Tim Derickson and Jim Spurlino — also have collectively spent close to $560,000 on advertising.
That is “an extraordinary amount of money for a congressional race,” said Miami University Hamilton political science professor John Forren.
With “no heir apparent, no obvious person to fill the seat” that represents all of Butler, Clark, Darke, Miami and Preble counties and the southernmost portion of Mercer County, the race is winnable by several candidates, he said.
“This would be a nice trophy to win for some outside group poring money into this,” Forren said.
“No one went into (the race) with an insurmountable lead of name recognition or support,” he added.
The Ohio 8th Congressional District is also a political battle ground for several outside political groups because there is a “scarcity of opportunity,” said Guy Harrison, a partner with OnMessage, an Alexandria, Va.-based marketing firm
“There’s very few places for opportunities for these open seats, especially in contested open seats,” Harrison said.
Davidson, a Troy businessman, is leading the pack of 15 Republican congressional hopefuls in not only fundraising totals — his campaign has raised more than $300,000 since filing to run in December — but he also leads with more than $1 million in outside support.
One of those supporters — Club for Growth — said its financial commitment to the Davidson campaign falls in line with its previous political moves.
“The Club’s PAC has historically looked for opportunities to endorse economic conservatives, especially for House and Senate seats that have been held by big-spending moderates,” said Doug Sachtleben, communications director for Club for Growth. “John Boehner became synonymous with business-as-usual in Washington and massive spending bills. In that sense, the seat definitely has some added significance.”
On the other side, a recent radio ad by Virginia-based Defending Main Street SuperPAC calls out Davidson’s Global Source Manufacturing for locating some jobs in China.
Steve LaTourette, chairman of Defending Main Street and a former Ohio Congressman, said his group wasn’t intending to be involved in the 8th District race, but Club for Growth’s financial backing — and Davidson’s support by the House Freedom Caucus — prompted them to reconsider.
“We just want to make sure voters had all the information,” LaTourette said. “Beagle has a voting record. Derickson has a voting record. There is no record with Davidson.”
Davidson’s campaign manager, Meredith Griffin-Liedel, called the ads “desperate, negative attacks that try and distract voters from the problems our country faces.”
Voters are “sick and tired of politics as usual,” she said, echoing the Davidson campaign’s ad running on Cincinnati radio. ” … nothing is more predictable than D.C. insiders desperate to protect their existing career politicians.”
The candidates also are not surprised with the outside interest generated by this race.
“Voters should pay close attention because these (Washington, D.C. special interest) groups will have the recipients in their debt,” said Spurlino spokesman Baylor Myers. “It’s impossible to believe such tremendous sums of money — in one case over $1 million to one candidate — would not significantly influence future votes in Congress.”
Griffin-Liedel said she’s not surprised by the amount of money being invested, and “did expect party bosses and insiders to distort facts to protect establishment politicians.”
Beagle said his campaign is “up against over $1 million of secretive D.C. special interest money in support of my opponents.”
Derickson spokesman Colton Henson said the amount of money being spent on negative or attack ads is not surprising because “this is an important election.”
“The larger the field, the more common it is,” Harrison said. “You’ve got to figure out a way to stand out.”