Republican candidates spent about $167,000 on the May 6 primary for an open Statehouse seat, which an expert called a surprising amount that reflects national political trends.
Springfield lawyer Argeri Lagos spent more than $120,400 on his losing bid for the Republican nomination for the 79th Ohio House District, more than three times as much as his competitor, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office on Friday.
Kyle Koehler, a Springfield businessman who won the nomination, spent about $40,000, while local insurance agent Rick Chimento spent about $7,400. The totals include end-of-year, pre-primary and post-primary reports.
Koehler received about 54 percent of the vote, while newcomers Lagos had 36 percent and Chimento had 10 percent. Koehler will face Democratic candidate Darrell Jackson, a former Clark County Sheriff’s deputy who was unopposed in the primary, in the Nov. 4 general election.
The amount of money spent in the Republican primary is surprising for a Statehouse seat, said Wittenberg University political science professor Rob Baker, but Lagos was a first-time candidate and had to introduce himself to voters.
“(Lagos) had never run before and needed to get his name out,” Baker said. “With Kyle having run before for county commission, I think they realized that they needed to do as much as they can to get Argeri’s name out there.
“But still, for a Statehouse seat, it’s certainly a bit of money.”
The heated campaign, which including disagreements inside the party between moderate and conservative Republicans, is typical of nationwide trends, Baker said.
“In the heat of the battle, some of the stuff on Koehler’s Facebook page was indicative of how he’s the true conservative candidate, and that’s going to ruffle some feathers with other folks who think that might be off-putting to voters in the general election,” he said.
Springfield Republican state Rep. Ross McGregor has served the maximum four terms in office. The district consists of Springfield and the southwestern half of Clark County.
Koehler is vice president at KK Tool, a family-owned machine shop. He ran for Clark County commission in 2012 and was narrowly defeated by incumbent David Hartley.
His campaign did what it had to do to win the Statehouse primary, Koehler said.
“We wish we didn’t have to spend so much money, but postage is very expensive and getting the word out is, too,” he said.
Campaign manager Yianni Lagos said in a statement that the candidate raised money from the community, friends and family and didn’t take money from lobbyists or special interest groups.
“We made the decision from the beginning that we were going to run a positive campaign focused on bringing jobs to Clark County,” the statement says. “We did not spend a single dollar attacking our opponents. Regardless of the result, we are going to continue to work everyday to bring jobs to Clark County and make Clark County a better place to raise a family.”
Chimento owed about $2,600 after the primary, but he said the debt has since been paid off. Entering the primary election, he didn’t expect it to be so costly, but he said more money is being spent in other states.
“If there’s anything good that came out of it, it’s that money doesn’t assure you of a successful campaign,” Chimento said.
Five months ahead of the November election, Jackson has a monetary edge on Koehler.
Jackson has about $21,000 in cash on hand, while Koehler has about $10,000 on hand.
“What we learned from the primary is that money doesn’t win an election,” Koehler said. “It’s getting your name out there and letting people know who you are and letting voters choose the best candidate … It’s not who has the most money, but the best ideas.”
Jackson has spent about $2,800 at this point and still has some expenses to incur, like yard signs, he said. The fundraising effort for the Democrats hasn’t ended, Jackson said.
“I believe it will take more money (than what they’ve raised),” Jackson said.
Koehler and Jackson have both started knocking on doors. Both also participated in the Memorial Day parade last month.
The yard signs will likely begin to surface after Labor Day, Koehler said.
“We have a lot of doors to knock on and we’re going to do that,” he said.
Jackson said he’s knocked on more than 2,000 doors so far.
“It’s very important I get my name out there,” Jackson said.
The Springfield News-Sun provides balanced election coverage in Clark County, including recent stories on local and state primaries, school tax issues and early voting.
Cash on hand: $10,171
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Cash on hand: $21,155