Ohio Republican Senate committee spends big in two primaries

With only two Republican incumbent state senators facing opposition in the March 19 primary, the well-funded Republican Senate Campaign Committee had the luxury of spending in just those races.

Between Jan. 1 and April 29, the RSCC spent a total of $1.04 million with $452,587 of it going to state Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Lenox, and $216,462 given to the campaign of state Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester.

Both incumbents won by large margins.

O’Brien beat state Rep. Mike Loychik of Bazetta, a two-term House member, 63.8% to 36.2%. The district includes all of Trumbull and Ashtabula counties and most of Geauga County.

Lang got 60.1% of the vote in a three-person race with his nearest competitor, Candice Keller, a former two-term House member, getting 27.4% of the vote. The district includes most of Butler County.

The unanswered question is: Were they blowout wins because of the money from the RSCC or were the incumbents going to emerge from the primary regardless of the funds spent by the committee?

It’s difficult to answer, but the RSCC left nothing to chance.

The RSCC poured twice as much money into the O’Brien-Loychik Republican primary in the 32nd Ohio Senate District than it did in the 4th District race won by Lang. There were obviously more concerns by the RSCC about O’Brien’s challenger than the two facing Lang.

That makes sense as incumbents enjoy an edge to start. Lang had two candidates splitting the opposition vote while O’Brien had a one-on-one matchup.

On top of that, Loychik is a sitting state House member who has name recognition — it can be argued whether voters think positively or negatively about him — in Trumbull, the district’s most-populous county, and to a lesser extent in Ashtabula County.

Of the $452,587 in-kind contributions given by the RSCC to O’Brien’s committee, $197,971 was between March 5 and March 19 for media commercials, digital advertising, media production, web design and hosting, and even for campaign food and beverages.

The primary was March 19.

The RSCC gave $254,616 to O’Brien’s campaign in in-kind contributions between Feb. 7 and Feb. 23 for commercials and campaign mail.

So between Jan. 1 and April 29 — the preprimary and postprimary reporting periods — the RSCC spent more than 43% of its money helping O’Brien’s campaign. In comparison, the RSCC spent about 21% of its funds to boost Lang in his Republican primary.

The RSCC went after Keller for being “another phony conservative we just can’t trust.” They called her “ethically challenged,” that she “lined her own pockets,” and for missing about 25% of the votes while in the state House.

Keller, a controversial figure during her time in the state House, also lost the 2020 state Senate primary to Lang.

Like in the 4th District race, the RSCC’s TV commercials in the 32nd District spent more time criticizing Loychik, the challenger, than praising O’Brien, the incumbent.

The RSCC also labeled Loychik as “another phony conservative we just can’t trust.”

One ad went after Loychik for a connection to Larry Householder, the former Ohio House speaker and a Republican sentenced to 20 years in prison last year for his role in the largest public corruption scandal in the state’s history.

Householder was named speaker in January 2019, two years before Loychik started serving in the House. Also, Loychik voted to expel Householder in June 2021.

But the commercial claimed Loychik was in Householder’s pocket. The RSCC pointed to Loychik initially voting against bringing the Householder expulsion to a floor vote and that he was endorsed by Householder in his 2020 campaign. It’s typical for the sitting Republican speaker to endorse the Republican candidate in a House race against a Democrat.

Another RSCC commercial accused Loychik of turning his back on military veterans. Loychik served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years and is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Without the RSCC’s in-kind contribution, O’Brien raised $147,842 for her reelection since the start of 2023 to $135,600 for Loychik.

That’s only a small edge for O’Brien.

But the RSCC’s in-kind contributions to O’Brien are more than her campaign and Loychik’s raised combined.

Have an interesting story? Contact David Skolnick by email at

dskolnick@vindy.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @dskolnick.


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