Ohio Abortion Foes Prove Power of Words: Ballots & Boundaries

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There are multiple layers to unpack in the way Ohio officials handled what could have been the routine approval of ballot language.

Most striking was the decision to frame an abortion-rights proposal using the language of the opposition. Count for yourself: “unborn child” is in there four times.

And then there’s the personality behind that wording: the state’s top elections overseer is the chair of the Ohio Ballot Board and also happens to be a US Senate candidate. How Frank LaRose handled the abortion ballot question just might come up in conversations when Republican donors decide where to put their 2024 contributions.

Layer No. 3 is a pathway to perplexity.

Ohio will have two questions on the November ballot. The proposed abortion rights constitutional amendment is Issue 1 and recreational cannabis legalization is Issue 2. Earlier this month, abortion was part of the discussion of a different Issue 1 that would’ve made constitutional amendments more difficult to adopt.

Imagine the confusion if autumn’s “Vote Yes on Issue 1″ gets mixed up in an Internet stew with the “Vote No on Issue 1″ summer advocacy by people on the same side of the issue. This was already an interesting debate. Now there’s extra to watch. READ MORE from Eric Heisig.

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OHIO: Gerrymander Rejection
An effort to get voters to change the way Ohio handles redistricting was squashed at the starting gate.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) rejected proposed petition language, writing that his office “identified omissions and misstatements that, as a whole, would mislead a potential signer as to the actual scope and effect of the proposed (constitutional) amendment.” A spokesman for Citizens Not Politicians says the group will try again. — Eric Heisig

UTAH: Edwards Best-Funded
Heading into the home stretch of the three-Republican race to replace soon-to-resign Rep. Chris Stewart (R), one campaign has a lot more left to spend.

Federal Election Commission filings show that former state Rep. Becky Edwards had $228,000 left in her account Aug. 16, compared with $90,000 for Celeste Maloy, Stewart’s former counsel, and $85,000 for Bruce Hough, a businessman and longtime Utah Republican activist.

Edwards, who loaned her campaign $300,000, also raised the most of the three from individual donors. Of note: backing from the Republican Main Street Partnership PAC, which promotes GOP centrism. And to connect the dots further, she opposed Sen. Mike Lee (R) in a 2022 primary.

Maloy is the local party-backed candidate. Her donors include House Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (Okla.) and former Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) Hough, the father of professional dancers Julianne and Derek Hough, has primarily self-financed his campaign. The Sept. 5 GOP primary winner will be favored in the Nov. 21 special general election. Stewart is resigning Sept. 15. — Greg Giroux

OHIO: Supreme Court 2.0
The Ohio Supreme Court will soon review its 2022 finding that Republican-drawn congressional maps were too partisan.

The court, with a revised lineup following the retirement of former Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, asked for new legal briefs, prompted by the US Supreme Court’s June ruling in Moore v. Harper that upheld the authority of state courts to review congressional maps and changes to federal election rules.

The decision getting another look concluded that a congressional map ran afoul of state constitutional language barring any map that “unduly favors or disfavors a political party of its incumbent.” Republicans won 10 of 15 districts under that map. — Greg Giroux

FLORIDA: Testing the Limits
The county judge hearing a challenge of the congressional map pushed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis questioned in open court whether there’s enough evidence in the record to show that Republicans tried to come up with an alternative solution to the lines they ended up with.

It’s a big case that could set up a court challenge to the federal Voting Rights Act. READ the coverage from the Tampa Bay Times, Politico, and NPR.

UTAH: Romney Keeps Us Guessing
The latest word on Utah Sen. Mitt Romney’s re-election plans is that he still has nothing to say. “I’m thinking maybe this fall I’ll make an announcement about a decision,” Romney (R) said at a public appearance earlier this week. “I’m trying to decide whether I can get some things done that I care about in another term. How productive can I be.” — Salt Lake Tribune

MONTANA: Sheehy on TV
Tim Sheehy, the Bridger Aerospace CEO opposing Sen. Jon Tester (D), has begun airing a TV ad introducing himself as a military veteran.

“We have too many leaders that are phoning it in,” the former Navy SEAL says over brief footage of Tester walking in the Capitol. “I want to remind Washington what it is to have service and sacrifice at the center of your mission.”

Sheehy is the preferred candidate of national Republican officials in the Montana Senate election. Rep. Matt Rosendale, who lost to Tester in 2018, hasn’t said if he’ll oppose Sheehy for the Republican nomination in what will be one of the most consequential Senate races of the 2024 election. — Greg Giroux


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To contact the reporters on this story: Eric Heisig in Ohio at eheisig@bloombergindustry.com; Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; George Cahlink at gcahlink@bloombergindustry.com

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