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Ohio billionaire Les Wexner leaves the Republican Party: Capitol Letter

September 17, 2018

Ohio billionaire Les Wexner leaves the Republican Party: Capitol Letter

Rotunda Rumblings

One Les Republican: L Brands CEO Les Wexner, the wealthiest Republican supporter in the state, told a small group in Columbus last Thursday that he has quit the GOP. “I’m an independent. I won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party,” the billionaire said following a visit by ex-President Barack Obama, according to Suzanne Goldsmith, senior editor of Columbus Monthly. Wexner said President Donald Trump is “behaving poorly,” specifically noting Trump’s comment that there were “very fine people” among white nationalists who rallied in Charlottesville, Va., last year. 

Fair trade: The Ohio State Fair announced it has selected a new company to provide rides, after 26 years with the former ride provider. The new contract with Talley Amusements comes after the Fire Ball ride malfunctioned, killing one and injuring others, cleveland.com’s Laura Hancock writes.  Pot stop: State regulators are working to revoke a provisional medical marijuana cultivation license from Toledo-based OhiGrow LLC, reports cleveland.com’s Jackie Borchardt. The small-scale grower hasn’t made “a good faith effort” to establish its facility, according to Ohio Department of Commerce officials.

Bad news/good news: The Cleveland Metropolitan School District got an overall F grade, according to this year’s state report cade. But as The Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’Donnell explains, the district’s “Performance Index,” a composite of all state tests for multiple grade levels, increased enough to bump the district’s state grade for Achievement - essentially for overall test scores - from an F to a D. That means Cleveland schools are close to overtaking Columbus schools, the state’s largest district. Residency resolution: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted ruled Friday that House District 20 Republican nominee Bobby Mitchell has residency in the district and thus can run against incumbent Democratic Rep. Dick Brown. Husted, a Republican, broke a tie among the Franklin County Board of Elections over a complaint filed by a neighbor that he never saw Mitchell at the apartment in the district that he rented last October. Husted held that Mitchell, a pastor who works at a car dealership, provided “uncontroverted testimony” that he resides there, including that he works long hours and therefore is rarely seen at home.

Aftab’s odds improve: FiveThirtyEight has increased Democrat Aftab Pureval’s odds of beating U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District. As of Friday, the political forecasting website gave Pureval a nearly 63 percent chance of winning the Southwest Ohio seat. Other political handicapping sites rate the race a tossup.

That’s a lot of change: Change Now, a new Democratic super PAC, has dropped about $467,000 on TV ads opposing Chabot, according to cleveland.com’s Andrew Tobias.

Speaking of change: In the latest episode of “Ohio Matters,” cleveland.com’s political podcast, veteran Democratic consultant Aaron Pickrell said Trump won in part because he promised voters that things would be different if he won. “To a certain degree, Donald Trump was a hope and change candidate in 2016,” said Pickrell, ex-President Barack Obama’s 2008 Ohio campaign director.  Diff’rent strokes: The Columbus Dispatch’s Jack Torry and Jessica Wehrman outline the many policy differences held between Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and GOP rival Jim Renacci on taxes, health care, immigration, guns and abortion.  Baldwin disagrees with DeRolph: Republican Ohio Supreme Court nominee Craig Baldwin said he considers the 1997 DeRolph decision – which found the state’s method of funding schools to be unconstitutional – to be an example of judicial activism, writes Jim Provance of the Toledo Blade. Baldwin, a state appeals court judge from Newark, said he “considers himself to be an ‘originalist’ and ‘textualist’ in the mold of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,” Provance wrote. 

Donnelly wouldn’t oppose death cases: Meanwhile, Baldwin’s Democratic opponent, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Donnelly, tells Provance that despite personal questions about the death penalty, he would vote to set execution dates (unlike ex- Justice Bill O’Neill, the last Democrat to serve on the court). “I’m bound to follow the law,” said Donnelly, who served on the Supreme Court’s capital punishment task force.

PBM pitfalls? The Dispatch’s Marty Schalden and Catherine Candisky have an overview of what Ohio is doing to regulate charges paid to pharmacy benefit managers, as well as potential problems the state could face as it does so.

Minority report: CNN’s Donald Judd and Jasmine Wright take a look at the Ohio Democratic Party’s Minority Engagement Program, run by party official Ron McGuire to increase black turnout in the 2018 midterms.

Full Disclosure

Five things we learned from the April 9 financial disclosure statement of state Rep. J. Todd Smith, a Germantown Republican. Smith was recently appointed to his seat and is seeking election to House District 43 in November.  1. Smith reported that he works as a minister for two churches: The Church at Farmersville and The Holtsinger Memorial Church. He also works as a personal banker for Chase Bank. The form doesn’t require candidates who are not incumbents to list income, and Smith wasn’t in office when he submitted the form. 

2. He has IRAs with Ameriprise, TransAmerica and US Bank Wealth Management. 

3. For real estate, he listed having one property in Germantown, on Diamond Mill Road. 

4. He owed over $1,000 at some point in 2017 each to Huntington Bank, US Bank and Chase Bank. 

5. He had received no loans, meals, beverages or travel from lobbyists last year.

On The Move

The National Farmers Union gave U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, both Democrats, an award last week for their leadership and public policy support of family farmers, ranchers and rural communities across the country.

Birthdays

Rep. Jim Hughes

Ohio House Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring

Straight From The Source

“I said, ’What I’d really like to do is be on the ticket and get on a bus and campaign between Harrisburg and Des Moines on a bus for three months. And then ...I call you and say, ‘Madam President-elect, I think I’ll stay in the Senate. Can you find somebody else now?’” - Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, speaking with the Columbus Dispatch editorial board about an unusual -- and seemingly tongue-in-cheek -- offer he made to Hillary Clinton to become her 2016 running mate, then resign after the election.

Capitol Letter is a daily briefing providing succinct, timely information for those who care deeply about the decisions made by state government. If you do not already subscribe, you can sign up here to get Capitol Letter in your email box each weekday for free.

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