In Ohio, dozens of congressional hopefuls have submitted campaign finance reports for the upcoming election. In the 2nd Congressional district, Republican U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup chose not to run for reelection, and a dozen Republicans have thrown their hats in the ring for the GOP-friendly seat running across Southcentral Ohio. In the 6th Congressional district, Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson bowed out early to lead Youngstown State University. Two state lawmakers and an East Palestine resident are seeking the Republican nomination in the eastern Ohio district.
In Ohio’s 9th Congressional district, Democratic U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur is once again defending her toss-up seat. She handily defeated conservative firebrand J.R. Majewski in the last election, and national GOP figures were hoping to coalesce around former state lawmaker Craig Riedel as an alternative this time around. State Rep. Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Township, jumped into the race.
The candidates’ year end reports cover the final quarter of 2023, so any more recent uptick in donations won’t be reflected in their reports. Still, the field struggled to crack even $20,000, with half of the Republican candidates falling below the mark or brought in so little they didn’t file at all. Rep. Wenstrup’s year-end report in 2021 showed him bringing in more than $312,000. Incumbency undoubtedly juices that total, but the $109,000 he raised from individuals ahead of a sleepy primary election, is more than every current candidate save two.
State Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, raised about $611,000. That’s about five times as much as his closest rival. The bulk of Antani’s fundraising—aalmost $400,000 worth—ccame from individuals in Ohio, but he also raised $20,000 or more in California, Florida, and Texas. PACs associated with hotel owners or the Hindu community gave another $25,500. Notably, Ananti appears to be eschewing the go-to conservative fundraising platform, WinRed.
Two other candidates, former Jackson County GOP vice chair Larry Kidd and business owner Tim O’Hara, have propped up their campaigns with sizable personal loans as well. Derek Myers raised just $2,500 from two donors, but sent out a press release claiming he’d raised more than $783,500 just after the reporting deadline. His report also bills every expense to the campaign itself, largely obscuring the nature of transactions.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s early exit has given candidates running to replace him a full calendar, with the March 19 primary including the typical nominating contest for November’s general election and a June special election to finish out Johnson’s term. Democrats Rylan Finzer and Michael Kripchak, as well as Republican Rick Tsai, have not met FEC reporting thresholds at year end. State Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus and Sen. Michael Rulli have taken different strategies to raise money, with Stoltzfus raising about $30,000 from individuals and Rulli reporting slightly more than $100,000 in individual donations. Rulli trails Stoltzfus in cash-on-hand due to his campaign loan.
Republicans identified Marcy Kaptur’s congressional seat in Northwest Ohio as a potential pickup in 2022. Two well-established state lawmakers jumped into the race but wound up splitting the vote. First-time candidate J.R. Majewski squeaked by them in the primary but fell flat in the general election. The 2024 primary is shaping up similarly, with J.R. Majewski running again and former state Rep. Craig Riedel, who finished second in the last primary, trying again.
Kaptur heads into 2024 with $1.3 million on hand, raising more than $200,000 from individuals and adding another $200,000 from PACs representing organized labor, business interests, and Democratic candidates or organizations. Nearly half of her donations from individuals came from Ohio, but she also cleared $10,000 from donors in California, New York, and Massachusetts.
Riedel, who was the party favourite until recently, has been able to raise a substantial amount of money, but he’s still not in the same ballpark as Kaptur. He raised close to $1 million in 2023 but spent almost $400,000. Majewski has about a quarter as much cash on hand, at $123,000, but he raised a similar amount in the final quarter. For a candidate who has successfully leveraged social media to build his profile, Majewski’s support remains remarkably close to home.