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Campaign reports give insight

There were several interesting developments from the post-primary campaign finance reports of state Legislature incumbents and candidates from the Mahoning Valley.

State Rep. Gil Blair, D-Weathersfield, in the Ohio House’s 63rd District was the only incumbent in the area to face challengers in the April 28 primary.

Blair was appointed to the seat in June 2019, filing a vacancy left by the resignation of Democrat Glenn Holmes.

Blair, like most incumbent legislators, largely relies on political action committee money to fund his campaign. Nearly all of the $14,038 he raised Jan. 1 through May 29 — the latter being the last date for the post-primary election filing period — came from PACs.

He had no trouble beating two challengers: Niles Councilman-at-Large Barry Profato and Werner Lange of Newton Falls. Blair received 64.1 percent of the vote.

Blair also spent nearly all the money he had. He was left with $987.87 as of May 29.

In comparison, Lange spent a little over $1,000 and showed a $279.40 deficit on his latest report. Profato raised no money.

Mike Loychik of Cortland, Blair’s Republican challenger, has raised about $4,000 for his campaign so far this year. Loychik, who ran unopposed in the primary, had more cash on hand in his account as of May 29 than Blair — $2,417.80 to $989.87.

But Loychik doesn’t have the PAC pipeline that Blair has, so the incumbent is almost certainly going to raise more money as the race progresses.

Like Blair, Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, was appointed by his House caucus to fill a vacancy.

Cutrona was named May 28 to succeed Don Manning, R-New Middletown, in the House’s 59th District. Manning died March 20.

Manning had $57,829.53 in his account as of Feb. 26 and received $2,000: $1,000 each from two PACs on March 11 and 12. His campaign spent $1,718.16 before his death.

The campaign fund was subsequently closed April 27 with $750 going to a CPA on April 9; $1,000 to Second Harvest Food Bank on April 27; and the rest — $56,361.37 — going to the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee.

The presumption is most or all of the money the caucus received will be given to Cutrona, who informed House Republicans in a May 5 letter before his appointment that if he was selected, he would “immediately deposit $50,000 into my campaign fund in an effort to secure this seat in November.”

That will give him plenty of money to run for this seat that takes in about half of Mahoning County’s population.

Chris Stanley of Canfield, the Democratic nominee for the seat, has struggled to raise money for his campaign with one very notable exception.

Bill Siderewicz, head of Clean Energy Future LLC, donated $13,000 to Stanley’s campaign on Feb. 29.

Clean Energy has developed two natural gas-fired power plants in Lordstown and was going to build a third one when a bill supported by Manning led to a $1 billion financial bailout of the state’s two troubled nuclear power plants that was signed into law July 23, 2019.

Siderewicz was furious about the decision, calling it “political tampering with Ohio’s free electricity generation market” and was part of an unsuccessful effort to have the rescue considered for repeal through a ballot referendum.

Stanley had $8,574.68 in his campaign fund as of May 29.

Without the Siderewicz contribution, Stanley raised $6,770.97 this year through May 29 with state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, responsible for about half of that.

Lepore-Hagan gave Stanley $1,000 earlier this year, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen of Independence gave a $2,000 contribution. Lepore-Hagan is close to the PAC as her husband is the union’s director of political and legislative affairs in Washington, D.C.

When Manning was alive, he was virtually assured re-election.

With his passing, the seat could be up for grabs.

Cutrona putting $50,000 of his own money into the race with talk of at least another family member contributing some serious cash to his campaign as well as the House Republican Caucus making an investment in retaining the seat will greatly help him.

If the caucus just gives the money left from Manning’s account and Cutrona follows through with his $50,000, he will start the campaign with more than $100,000.

Stanley is going to need more Siderewicz-like contributions if he’s going to financially compete.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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