Money plays major role in races

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

While Tuesday’s election is a relatively low-key one — particularly when you consider the presidential election is next year — the amount of money in some of the local elections in the Mahoning Valley is noteworthy.

For one candidate, it’s absolutely staggering.

Randy Law, who’s running as an independent candidate for Warren mayor, raised and spent no money, according to his pre-general election campaign finance reports.

But America’s Tomorrow, a Marietta-based political action committee, gave Law’s campaign $117,963 in in-kind contributions over a period of about two months.

The in-kind contributions to Law are more than the money received by all of the candidates in Trumbull County running this year combined.

And that was as of Oct. 16.

Ryan Stubenrauch, the PAC’s consultant, said: “Until the polls close, we’ll continue to tell Warren voters why they should vote for independent Randy Law.”

There’s nothing illegal about it, but it is very curious.

Why would this PAC be so interested and invested in a Warren mayoral race?

The money was spent on direct mail, television and radio commercials, digital ads, signs, a lawyer who won a case in the Ohio Supreme Court to reinstate Law to the ballot after the Trumbull County Board of Elections disqualified him and for consultants, which presumably includes Stubenrauch. He’s well connected to Republican politics, having served as Mike DeWine’s gubernatorial campaign spokesman last year and in the same position when DeWine ran in 2014 for re-election as attorney general.

While Law has to disclose the in-kind contributions from the PAC, America’s Tomorrow doesn’t have to disclose its donors to the Federal Election Commission until about two months after the election is over.

Incumbent Mayor Doug Franklin, a Democrat, raised $13,845 and spent $9,041.31 during the pre-general election filing period. He had $12,329.31 in his account heading into the filing period.

Compare that to America’s Tomorrow spending $29,750 on just direct mail on behalf of Law’s campaign.

In Mahoning County, the most expensive race is for Youngstown Municipal Court judge.

All three of the candidates seeking the six-year term loaned considerable amounts of money to their campaigns.

Leading the way is Martin Hume, an assistant county prosecutor who won the Democratic primary in May. As of Oct. 16, Hume had loaned $67,500 to his campaign with $52,500 given during the primary and the remaining $15,000 on Oct. 4.

Hume raised $31,010.90 from donors during the pre-general election filing period. That’s on top of the $18,009 he raised from donors in the primary.

That means he’s given more money to his campaign than all his donors in total.

Renee M. DiSalvo — who was appointed to the vacant seat Oct. 23, 2018, by then-Gov. John Kasich — and her husband, Michael D. Ramun, loaned $13,101.25 to her campaign. She raised $51,739 from donors.

Then there’s Mark A. Hanni, who reported raising and spending no money from donors as of Oct. 16.

Hanni loaned $10,100 to his campaign and incurred $3,153.50 in debt. However, he also reported spending $16,191.88. That leaves him with a deficit.

The pre-general numbers are fascinating, but of equal interest is the post-general filings, which are due in mid-December.

Over the years, plenty of candidates have waited to ask donors to contribute after the pre-general reporting period is over in order to not tip their hand as to how much they actually raise.