Incumbents have huge financial leads

WARREN — When it comes to campaign funds between incumbent state legislators from the Mahoning Valley and their challengers, there is no competition.

For every seat, the incumbents hold a tremendous financial advantage over their challengers, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office for the period between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2019.

In some races, the challengers didn’t even file campaign reports to show any contributions or expenditures.


State Rep. Don Manning, R-New Middletown, raised the most money in the second half of 2019 among any of the state legislators representing Mahoning County or their challengers.

Manning, running for his second two-year term in the Ohio House 59th District, raised $29,209 between July 1 and Dec. 31 with $23,025 coming from political action committees.

His biggest donor was Political Education Patterns, which gave $13,000. It is the political arm of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18, which represents about 15,000 unionized equipment operators, mechanics and surveyors in the heavy construction industry in 85 counties in Ohio and four counties in northern Kentucky. Of note are the three counties it doesn’t represent in Ohio: Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull. Manning’s district takes in about half of Mahoning County.

Manning spent $7,609.28 during the second half of last year.

Including money he had prior to July 1, 2019, Manning reported $48,351.68 in his campaign fund as of Dec. 31.

Chris Stanley of Canfield, his Democratic opponent, raised $1,725 during the second half of 2019. That included a $1,000 contribution from state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, and $100 from her husband, Robert, who is a former state legislator.

In the Ohio House 58th District, Lepore-Hagan raised $10,125 with $8,650 from PACs between July 1 and Dec. 31. She spent $13,105.59 during the same time period with the biggest payment being $2,000 to Tabbara Productions of Studio City, Calif., for consulting work.

With money she carried over from previous campaigns, her fund had $19,977.19 in it as of Dec. 31.

David T. Simon of Youngstown, her Republican opponent who she beat in the 2018 election, didn’t file a campaign finance report.

State Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, isn’t up for re-election until 2022. The incumbent in the Senate 33rd District seat raised $8,500 with $6,500 from PACs, and spent $1,846.47 in the last six months of 2019.

Including money he carried over from before July 1, Rulli had $44,710.42 in his campaign fund as of Dec. 31.


State Sen. Sean J. O’Brien, D-Bazetta, has the most money of any state legislator representing the Valley.

O’Brien, who is running for a second four-year term to the Ohio Senate 32nd District seat, raised $76,059.88 between July 1 and Dec. 31 with about $48,000 of it coming from PACs.

O’Brien already had $127,896.78 in his campaign fund before the filing period.

He spent $22,635.52 during the second half of 2019. Among his biggest expenses were $2,800 to U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s failed presidential campaign on Sept. 10 — Ryan quit the race Oct. 24 — as well as $1,517.25 to WFMJ for television commercials and $1,500 to McTigue and Colombo of Columbus for legal services.

He’s unopposed in the Democratic primary.

There are two candidates running for the Republican nomination in the March 17 primary: Sandra O’Brien of Rome and Kenneth J. Polke of Ashtabula. Polke didn’t file a campaign finance report.

Sandra O’Brien raised $25 during the last six months of 2019 and loaned $1,000 to her campaign. O’Brien, who has run for several elected offices over the years, has loaned $45,382 to her campaign fund since 2006.

She spent $165.06 during the latter half of last year.

In the Ohio House 64th District race, incumbent state Rep. Michael J. O’Brien, running for his fourth two-year term, raised $33,694 during the second half of 2019 with $12,800 from PACs.

O’Brien had $32,508.88 in his account before the filing period and spent $11,989.58 during the final six months of 2019. He had $54,213.30 in his account as of Dec. 31.

Martha Yoder of West Farmington, his Republican opponent, raised $1,780 during last year’s second half and loaned $2,200 to her campaign. After money spent, she had $1,675.63 in her account as of Dec. 31.

Yoder, who unsuccessfully challenged O’Brien in 2016 and 2018, has given $49,000 in loans to her campaign fund since Oct. 5, 2016, according to secretary of state records.

In the House’s 63rd District race, state Rep. Gil Blair, D-Weathersfield, raised $23,545.01 and spent $11,901.70 during the last six months of 2019, leaving him with $11,643.31 as of Dec. 31.

Of the money he raised, $6,550 came from PACs. Matthew Blair, his brother, gave $2,325 to his campaign.

Blair paid $7,000 to Two Ticks and the Dog Productions of Warren for campaign consulting and advertising.

Blair was appointed to the seat in May 2019, filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Democrat Glenn Holmes.

Blair has two Democratic challengers in the March 17 primary: Niles Councilman-at-Large Barry Profato and Werner Lange of Newton Falls.

Lange reported raising $1,260 — with $1,200 coming from him — and spending $612.90 between July 1 and Dec. 31.

Profato filed a termination of candidacy notice Jan. 30 with the secretary of state. But on Tuesday, he filed a designation of treasurer document stating he’s raised no money. Numerous attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

Stephanie Penrose, Trumbull County Board of Elections director, said Profato was recently in the board office and said he has no plans to get out of the race.

Mike Loychik of Cortland, the Republican nominee for the seat, didn’t file a campaign finance report.


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