Ohio referendum shakes up the senate marquee race


Sandusky, Ohio – Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has put Ohio’s Number 1, a measure that could have ultimately derailed statewide attempts to protect abortion access, at the center of his recently announced campaign for the Senate.

But now that the Republican-backed ballot measure has been defeated by voters, LaRose is left searching for a new electoral message.

LaRose said he has “left everything in the field” campaigning in support of balloting for the past eight months, including the past three weeks, when he was also seeking his nomination in the US Senate. Ohioans then voted “No” to Number 1.

Tuesday’s 14-point referendum loss has Republicans not only seeking to address the drumbeat of losses after the Roe v. Wade ruling was overturned last year, but also speculating about the lifespan of LaRose’s fledgling Senate campaign.

FILE: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose attends a news conference about the American Confidence in Elections Act (ACE) at the US Capitol, July 12, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose attends a news conference about the American Confidence in Elections Act (ACE) at the US Capitol, July 12, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images, File

David Niven, a professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, said, “I think LaRose’s issue is, what’s the thing that’s going to reinvigorate his campaign? Because the No. 1 was supposed to be the thing.” “I don’t want to call the crash bandwagon, but what is going to make this campaign a healthy campaign? It’s hard to see what that would be now.”

LaRose’s Issue 1 campaign action could have been an attempt to win over a voter like Sandusky’s Nancy McCain, who, after LaRose stopped at Berardi’s Catering in Sandusky, told ABC News she was willing to vote for LaRose’s opponent, Bernie Moreno, but was swayed. LaRose speech defending the suffrage measure.

“I made the decision because I think he’s more in tune,” McCain said after LaRose’s Sandusky stop.

I loved – I loved everything [LaRose] He said. “He did a good job,” she said.

The GOP-led Number 1, which would have raised the ballot initiative threshold to amend the state constitution from more than 50% to 60%, fell by a margin of 57-43.

The Number 1 vote has taken on national significance given Ohio’s referendum scheduled for later this year on whether to add abortion protections to the state constitution — a vote that would have been subject to the 60% threshold had Tuesday’s vote been successful.

The sweeping criticism of the referendum was seen across Ohio — from Butler County near Cincinnati, which Trump won by 30 points three years ago but backed the referendum by 0.6 points, to Montgomery County, where Trump lost 2 points in 2020 but lost the referendum by 14. a point. Points Tuesday.

Photo: Volunteer Amelia Klein helps voters cast their ballots during Special Election for Number 1 at Schiller Recreation Center in German Village in Columbus, Ohio.  August 8, 2023.

Volunteer Amelia Klein helps voters cast ballots during Special Election Number 1 at Schiller Recreation Center in German Village in Columbus, Ohio. August 8, 2023.

Adam Kearns/USA Today/via Reuters

All three of the major GOP Senate candidates—LaRose, businessman Moreno, and Sen. Matt Dolan—endorsed Number 1. But none of them made it the cornerstone of their bids the way LaRose did—and now the knives are out.

“Frank LaRose is betting his entire political life on Case 1. He’s our Secretary of State-elect, and he spent the entire summer campaigning ‘Yes’ at the expense of doing his job running this election,” Ohio Democratic Party President Elizabeth Walters told ABC News.

“I think what’s really interesting is how Republican politicians will use this issue to make political games and support their own ambitions.”

LaRose spun the loss as a testament to his merits as a fighter despite the results.

“I have said for months that there is an assault on our constitution and that has not changed,” he said in a statement. “I’m just beginning to fight to protect the values ​​of Ohio.”

In a phone interview after the election, LaRose indicated that he did not regret fighting for a cause he described as “worthwhile”.

“Of course, that’s the message that the Democratic Party is trying to drive because, I mean, they know this race is coming up to me against Sherrod Brown, and I’m the clear frontrunner on the Republican primary side. And, you know, they’re really focused on trying to attack me because they know I’m the one. Who can be sure. But what’s clear is, Ohio, know who’s going to go to battle for them and stand up for their values,” he told Rose.

“I don’t think there is a sane person who can say I didn’t put in a full effort to win a Ver 1 campaign and no one worked harder than me. Seventy-six different events all over the state. Tens of thousands of miles.”

LaRose’s mistakes?

Some Republican state strategists have cautioned against drawing straight lines between a single-issue campaign and a Senate primary or general election that will see the actual candidates debate a full range of policies.

“I don’t think Issue 1 is going to make a difference, because the Republican base, Republican primary voters, I think they’ve been supportive of Issue 1,” said an Ohio Republican strategist. “Any issues Frank has in the primaries won’t be from Number 1, they will be from other things.”

However, other strategists and pundits pointed out what they described as missteps by LaRose that contributed to Tuesday’s results.

While many observers have linked the No. 1 to a referendum on abortion later this year, Republicans made a concerted effort to say Tuesday’s vote was about protecting the state constitution than they warned of a wave of special interest spending that could influence such polls. the future.

However, at a local event in June, LaRose appeared to say the quiet part out loud, telling the audience that Number 1 was “100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our Constitution,” shaking up Republican messaging and shifting the debate toward the issue of Democrats have taken the offensive, even in other red states.

LaRose later clarified that his comments were taken out of context, telling ABC News that abortion was “just one of many reasons” for his support for Issue 1.

“It’s simply about protecting the constitution from a whole lot of bad ideas,” he said.

However, the anti-Version 1 campaign and even his primary opponent Moreno exploited these statements.

“The only thing I would put to Frank is that he said it was 100% about abortion, which messed up the messaging. It’s 100% about protecting the Constitution,” Moreno said in a podcast before the vote.

Moreno also began his Senate career amidst the Number 1 campaign, but he pinned his political future much less on the issue. In Cuyahoga County on the southern edge of Cleveland on the Monday morning before the Number 1 vote, the two-time Senate candidate nodded to the Number 1 while delivering a powerful introductory speech on the stump, pitching himself as a savvy businessman (like Trump) who wasn’t interested in political ambition. (unlike LaRose).

“Anytime something you say is used by the other campaign, any time something you say is seen as so productive that the other party puts it in their campaign ads, it’s really a symbol of failure,” Niven said.

Critics also went after LaRose for not investing his money in the referendum, especially afterward He tells NBC News He put in “Great Equality” but that Republican eventually lost due to a flurry of Democratic spending against Number 1.

LaRose raised $1 million to lead Ohio, an outside group that is now supporting his Senate campaign. While he could have coordinated directly with the group before he launched his career, LaRose never sent any of that money to support the referendum.

He blamed the loss on Republicans beating Democratic black money groups, but despite raising $1 million in an organization to help run the Senate in the past six months, he admitted he didn’t put a single dollar toward passing the issue. Republican Party who supports a rival candidate, even though it is also legally permitted.”

LaRose told ABC News that the outside group did not invest money through the group to avoid illegal “coordination,” though he did not explain why the organization did not donate money before launching his Senate campaign.

Fight for control of the Senate

Tuesday’s GOP setback occurred in the broader context of Republican hopes to retake the Senate next year with the help of a very favorable map.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, along with fellow Democratic senators in West Virginia and Montana, are top targets for the GOP next year. Losing the chance to oust him would be a major blow to turning the chamber in favor of the Republicans in 2025 — and his opponents warn that LaRose’s candidacy could de-focus the GOP in 2024.

“Make no mistake about it, if Frank were the Republican nominee, the entire campaign against him would be about abortion. Is that what Republican voters, actors and donors want?” asked the strategist working for a competitor.

The V1 results could spur Democrats to boost Brown after he was burned by a string of losses in the previous swing state.

FILE: US Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, during a rail safety event in Columbus, Ohio, April 12, 2023.

US Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, during a rail safety event in Columbus, Ohio, April 12, 2023.

Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

“This is really the first proof of life we’ve seen from Ohio Democrats, and Ohio progressives, since Sherrod Brown won in 2018,” he said.

Brown is still unquestionably headed for a knife fight in a country that rocked the right during the Trump years. But for now, at least, Democrats are celebrating, in part to LaRose’s expense.

“Tonight was an important victory for our state, for Ohio voters, and for the principle of majority rule,” Walters said in a statement. “Ohio Democrats were proud to play our part in stopping this political power grab by outlying politicians in the statehouse—most notably Frank LaRose, who made himself the face of this effort and is now officially Ohio’s biggest loser.”

This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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