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GOP Poised to Hold onto Key House Seats in Ohio’s Competitive House Races

Aftab Pureval, left, is running against Rep. Steve Chabot in OH-01.
Photo by Paul Morigi Getty Images for Netflix

Republican candidates are poised to hold onto five key Ohio seats in the U.S. House of Representatives just four weeks before the midterm elections.

Those five seats currently held by Republicans in the 1st, 10th, 12th, 14th, and 15th Congressional Districts are among the 61 seats currently held by the GOP across the country that Breitbart News identified in July as “must-win” in order for Republicans to maintain a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives. (In addition, the GOP must flip three Democrat-held seats).

In the subsequent two and a half months, changes in circumstances have now placed all five of these races in the likely Republican win column in November.

The improvement of GOP fortunes in Ohio ariseS from both national factors–the strength of the economy, the improved job approval rating of President Donald Trump, and the “Kavanaugh effect”–as well as local factors, specifically the surprising weakness of Democrat candidates in these key races.

On August 8, after Troy Balderson’s special election victory over Democrat Danny O’Connor in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, the Cook Political Report changed that district’s rating from “Toss-up” to “Lean Republican,” and also changed the rating in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH-15) from “Likely Republican” to “Solid Republican,” thereby removing it from races considered “competitive” in the state.

The Cook Political Report now rates both Rep. Mike Turner’s (R-OH-10) re-election contest in the 10th Congressional District and Rep. David Joyce’s (R-OH-14) re-election contest as “Likely Republican.”

In the fifth and final competitive race–in Ohio’s First Congressional District- the Cook Political Report inexplicably continues to rate the electoral battle as a “toss-up” despite the most recent poll that shows the incumbent, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH-01) holds a nine point lead over his embattled Democrat challenger, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval.

The young and attractive Pureval had been considered a serious threat to Chabot, but he has recently become entangled in a campaign finance scandal of his own making, from which it appears he is unlikely to emerge unscathed.

“[P]ublicly available campaign finance reports appear to show Pureval used his clerk of courts campaign account for expenses in his federal congressional race,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported in August:

And that’s a campaign no-no. Using a county account in a federal race could be a violation of election laws, because the rules for each differ.

Pureval spent $30,000 in the first six months of this year out of the clerk campaign account – even though a potential run for re-election wouldn’t come for another two years when Pureval’s term is up, according to a campaign finance reports filed Tuesday at the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Pureval was elected clerk in 2016.

To make matters worse, Pureval’s mother, Drenko Pureval, donated $30,000 to his clerk of courts campaign during this time period in early 2018, $24,600 more than the $5,400 she is legally allowed to donated to his federal campaign for Congress:

One day after the congressional announcement, according to his clerk’s office campaign report, Drenko Pureval, donated $15,000 to Pureval’s clerk of courts campaign.

On the same day, she donated $5,400 to Aftab for Ohio, Aftab’s Congressional campaign account – the office her son is seeking this year, his federal campaign reports shows. That is the maximum amount permitted to be donated to the congressional campaign. There is no limit for donations in county races, including to the clerk campaign account.

Drenko Pureval then wrote a second $15,000 check to her son’s clerk of courts account on April 11, the clerk report says, bringing the total she donated to that campaign to $30,000.

In the midst of those donations, on April 4, Pureval paid $16,400 to Washington D.C.–based polling firm GBA Strategies for consulting, the clerk’s campaign report said. GBA is a Democratic polling firm. Pureval had never before used the firm in the clerk’s race. GBA did a congressional poll for Pureval in January, according to a polling memo distributed to supporters from the congressional campaign, which was obtained by The Enquirer.

Since that story broke in August, the scandal has continued to widen.

“The Ohio Elections Commission voted 6-1 on Sept. 20 to take a closer look at the campaign finance practices of Democrat Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who is running a tight race to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District,” CityBeat reported.

“The Enquirer has obtained the poll at the center of a campaign finance spending complaint against Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval – and it’s unquestionably a poll about his current congressional race,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on September 26.

On October 1, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint against Pureval with the Federal Election Commission, arguing that, “[t]he facts surrounding Pureval’s use of his non-federal account clearly indicate he has accepted donations and made expenditures for his federal campaign with non-federal funds.”

This is not a case of a single expenditure being mischaracterized. Rather it appears Pureval used his non-federal account to accept donations from a family member who also made the maximum donation for his federal campaign, and immediately used those funds for his federal campaign.

The attempts to obscure and explain only demonstrate intent to violation the law. If the Commission does not act and punish such a clear violation, then the laws are without purpose. 

On Monday, the National Republican Congressional Committee [NRCC] issued a statement noting that “Aftab Pureval was called out by ABC Channel 9’s Tanya O’Rourke for refusing to answer her questions about his campaign’s illegal campaign finance violations.”

“This is what a campaign in crisis looks like. Aftab Pureval owes OH-01 answers about a widening scandal that could result in criminal charges being placed against him,” the NRCC’s Chris Martin said in the statement.

The encouraging outlook for the GOP in the five competitive GOP-held House seats in Ohio is similar to the favorable situation the party finds itself in the seven competitive GOP-held House seats in Florida, as Breitbart News reported last week.

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