Mike Turner ad tries to tie opponent to Householder

Democrat Desiree Tims is running against incumbent Republican Mike Turner for the Ohio 10th Congressional district seat. CONTRIBUTED
Democrat Desiree Tims is running against incumbent Republican Mike Turner for the Ohio 10th Congressional district seat. CONTRIBUTED

Republican Mike Turner launched his first Congressional re-election campaign ad this week with an attempt to tie his Democratic opponent to the an alleged bribery scheme at the Ohio Statehouse involving Republicans.

The 30-second ad opens with a shot of state Rep. Larry Householder leaving the U.S. District Court after his appearance on a federal racketeering charge and the narrator says “It’s disgraceful. Lobbyists have bought seats in the Ohio Statehouse.” Then it pivots to calling Turner’s challenger, Democrat Desiree Tims, a Washington lobbyist who “moved back to Ohio and is trying to buy a seat in Congress.”

Tims said she has never met Householder, who is a Perry County Republican. She’s running for the 10th District Congressional seat — not the Ohio General Assembly. And her campaign notes that Turner received $19,000 from FirstEnergy PAC since 2004.

Federal prosecutors allege that Akron-based FirstEnergy funneled $60 million to a dark money group that helped elect pro-Householder state legislators who then elected Householder as speaker; Householder then pushed a $1.3 billion bailout bill to keep open nuclear power plants formerly owned by FirstEnergy.

Prosecutors used pseudonyms for companies involved in the alleged scheme but the descriptions reveal Company A and Company A-1 to be Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. and FirstEnergy Solutions. The companies separated and FirstEnergy Solutions emerged from bankruptcy in February with a new name: Harbor Energy, which now owns two nuclear power plants in Ohio.

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Turner said the ad is intended to point out how Tims’ campaign is fueled by contributions from sources outside the 10th Congressional district.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, discusses $4.3 million grant to help replace Greater Dayton RTA buses. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, discusses $4.3 million grant to help replace Greater Dayton RTA buses. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

“I’ve served this community as mayor — two terms, eight years — and have served this community to build jobs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and my financial support and voter support is from this community,” Turner said. “She came back and brought outside money with her and that’s the only reason she’s able to run for Congress. Absent her lobbyist connections and outside money, she doesn’t have enough money to run for office.”

ExploreTurner runs an ad against challenger Tims

Wright State University political scientist Lee Hannah said the ad could backfire on Turner.

“It is misleading. And, I’m surprised that a Republican would run an ad that would remind us of Householder. If anything, I figured Republicans would be running away from any associations with Householder or FirstEnergy,” Hannah said. “By trying to connect the ad to Tims, he’s running the risk of reminding voters about the scandal.”

It is the first TV ad in a race that has gained national media attention.

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Turner, 60, is a lawyer and former two-term Dayton mayor who is seeking his tenth consecutive term in Congress. He sits on the Committee on Armed Services and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as key subcommittees, and has focused his work on protecting and expanding jobs at Wright-Patterson AFB.

Tims, 32, launched her career as a White House intern during the Obama administration and worked as an aide to U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Tims worked in D.C. as a lobbyist for a non-partisan environmental non-profit group and as an advocate for affordable child care for Child Care Aware of America. She announced her run for Congress in August 2019.

If Tims wins, she’d be the first woman and the first Black to represent the Dayton area in Congress.

Both candidates are products of Dayton public schools and have long ties to the city. Turner graduated Belmont High School and Tims graduated Dunbar H.S.

In 1993, Turner was roughly the same age as Tims is now when he ran as a Republican for mayor of Dayton, a Democratic stronghold city. He knocked off an incumbent — a win that was so remarkable that Dayton Daily News cartoonist Mike Peters’ cartoon juxtaposed pigs flying and a Republican being elected Dayton mayor.

Turner said he won the mayor’s race because of his work in community and economic development, service on the city zoning board, and law practice.

When Turner was first elected to Congress in 2002, Tims was an eighth grader at Kiser Middle School in Dayton.

Tims is now trying to do the same thing Turner did at the beginning of his political career: she is a political newcomer trying to beat an incumbent in a district that favors Republicans.

Over the past nine elections, Turner has won his seat by an average of 24.9 percentage points. His last race against Democrat Theresa Gasper was the closest but Turner still won by 14 points.

The Cook Political Report ranking shows the 10th District leans Republican by 4 percentage points — an index that makes it one of the most competitive Congressional districts in Ohio. Turner said the ratings change reflects that Tims is funded by out of state donors.

OpenSecrets.org data for the 2020 campaign cycle shows Turner’s campaign contributions have been evenly split — $400,000 from inside Ohio, $400,000 from outside the state. Tims has raised $178,000 from Ohio sources and $319,000 from out of state, OpenSecrets reports.

ExploreOpenSecrets: Ohio's 10th Congressional District 2020 race

Hannah said Tims could benefit from a national wave election that favors Democrats and Joe Biden.

“Since we don’t have a Senate race or a gubernatorial race, this is the highest profile race on our ballot after the presidential election. That might give Tims some room to set herself apart from Turner and draw more attention to the race. I would imagine that the Tims campaign knows where Gasper over- and under performed and is looking to build on that momentum,” Hannah said. “Of course, Turner and his team are learning from that same information in hopes of securing another term. "