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Hopefuls for Senate seat talk cash at GOP event

Campaign approaches highlighted in Niles

Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno, two Republican candidates running for the U.S. Senate, have different approaches to raising and spending money in the campaign.

Moreno said he’s waiting to spend his campaign money until the start of next year while Gibbons is pouring millions of dollars of his personal wealth into his campaign now, he said, to be better positioned when the May 2022 primary occurs.

The two as well as Mark Pukita and Neil Patel, who also are seeking the Republican nomination for Senate, were guests at the Trumbull County Republican Women’s Club’s Thursday lunch event at Ciminero’s Banquet Centre in Niles.

All Republican candidates seeking the Senate nomination were invited, said Gail Drushel, the club’s president, but only the four attended.

Gibbons said Thursday that he gave $2.25 million to his campaign in the third quarter. He gave $5.67 million to his campaign in the second quarter.

The reports for the third quarter, July to September, need to be filed by Oct. 15 with the Federal Election Commission. So far, none of the Republican candidates has disclosed how much they raised during the third quarter.

Moreno and Gibbons, except the $2.25 million loan to his campaign disclosure, declined Thursday to say how much they raised in the third quarter.

Gibbons is airing commercials months ahead of the campaign as part of a planned $10 million buy.

“If I spend time raising money, it’s time I am not talking to voters,” he said. “I’m sure once I’m in the lead it will be a lot easier to raise funds. I have a name recognition problem because I’m a businessman. We’ve got a candidate (ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel) who’s spent $50 million to get his name out around the state over many elections and I’ve got to compete with him. I see him as the guy” to beat.

Moreno, an entrepreneur and luxury car dealer who also is a multimillionaire, said: “Our strategy we’re following is exactly what we wanted, which is go out and travel throughout the state” and meet Republican activists “who are really engaged. When everybody else starts paying attention, which is really quarter one (January to March) of next year, that’s when we’ll use our resources to really get our message out.”

Moreno’s second quarter report was somewhat of a surprise as he raised $2,249,068.52 — more than any other Republican candidate in the Senate race in Ohio in his first reporting quarter as a candidate for elected office.

Moreno added: “We’re not spending much. We’re really careful about the money and how we spend it because one of the things I firmly believe in is you have to be a candidate the same way you’re going to be a senator. Are you somebody who overspends or somebody who’s conservative and watches every cent? Believe me, I watch every cent.”

Like Gibbons, Moreno acknowledged he needs to grow his name recognition. The events are designed to focus on how the wealthy Republican Senate candidates are focused on “their petty feuds” rather than the issues that impact Ohio’s working families, said Michael Beyer, an ODP spokesman.

DEMOCRAT CRITICISM

While the Republicans were in Niles, the Ohio Democratic Party kicked off its Millionaire Melee tour in Wick Park in Youngstown.

The events are designed to focus on how the wealthy Republican Senate candidates are focused on “their petty feuds” rather than the issues that impact Ohio’s working families, said Michael Beyer, an ODP spokesman.

Youngstown Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, said the Republicans “are more interested in promoting themselves than proposing solutions for my family. Ohio deserves leaders who care about providing good-paying jobs, improving access to child care and making sure we can build a future for our children. This is a serious race with serious consequences, but none of the Republican Senate candidates act like it.”

Youngstown Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, said: “Republicans remain laser-focused on inner-party feuds.”

PUKITA AND PATEL

At the Republican event in Niles, Pukita criticized his own political party for corruption.

“We’ve got to clean up our own party before we demolish the other party,” he said. “Other candidates won’t do that because they’re afraid of generating friction with (Gov.) Mike DeWine and the Ohio Republican Party.”

As for campaign funding, Pukita said: “I’m not even going to try to keep up with them financially.”

Patel wanted to run in 2018 as a Democrat for state treasurer, but withdrew when it was obvious he didn’t have enough valid signatures.

After that, Patel, who said he was a conservative Democrat, switched his affiliation to Republican.

Patel said he has no issue with the numerous Republican candidates in the race and that he won’t be able to compete financially against them.

“I’ve been getting awesome support wherever I go,” he said. “If we let Democrats win, the United States will become socialist or communist.”

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