Updated Saturday with new comments from local Democratic Party chair.
The Ohio Democratic Party gave $5,000 to Pam Limes for her Hillsboro mayoral campaign, accounting for a big chunk of the $13,533 she has raised on her way to outspending incumbent Republican Drew Hastings by a 3 to 1 margin as of Oct. 14.
On Saturday, the local county Democratic Party chair said the contribution was part of a new initiative by the state Democratic Party.
According to campaign finance reports, Limes raised $10,952.48 during the most recent reporting period. She had a carryover from the primary of $2,081.44 and an outstanding loan of $500 for a total of $13,533.92. As of Oct. 14 she had spent $7,554.82 and still had nearly $6,000 on hand to spend.
In addition to the $5,000 contribution from the state Democratic Party that she received on Sept. 30, according to her report, Limes received $750 from the Highland County Democratic Party and another $750 from the Highland County Democratic Women’s Club.
She also received a $250 contribution from the Citizens for Pepper Committee, the Cincinnati committee of David Pepper’s failed campaign for state attorney general. She also received $100 from the Cincinnatus PAC, which has donated money to Hillary for America, as well as to Cincinnati’s Democratic mayor, John Cranley and Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio’s 13th Congressional District.
The $5,000 contribution from the state Democratic Party is unusually large from a state party organization to a small town mayor’s race.
Betty Bishop, the former Hillsboro mayor who has been serving as Limes’ campaign manager, said Thursday she did not know why the state party gave such a large donation.
“I was tickled to death they did,” said Bishop. “I didn’t question it. I was never that blessed in my own campaigns.”
She said that when Limes’ campaign treasurer told her about the contribution, “I said smile and accept it and move on.”
Kay Ayres, chair of the Highland County Republican Party, said she has never heard of either state party giving such an amount to a Hillsboro mayoral campaign.
“That’s an awfully lot,” said Ayres. “We’ve never received any at all” from the state Republican Party. “That’s very interesting. I don’t know what their interest would be.”
The Times-Gazette was unable to reach Highland County Democratic Party Chair Dinah Phillips on Thursday, but on Saturday Phillips sent an email saying that the $5,000 contribution from the state party was made as part of an initiative to support more local candidates.
Phillips said Limes was chosen to participate in State Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper’s “Main Street Initiative project.” She said that when Pepper became the new chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, “he wanted to dramatically change how the party functioned and how candidates were selected. He urged all 88 chairs who had elections coming up to seek out the best possible candidates for various positions.”
Phillips said that Pepper “felt the smaller counties had long been ignored and losing many elections. He felt that the party should build from the bottom up and start at the local level. He wanted to start the initiative with this year’s election.” She said she was proud that Limes was chosen for the initiative.
Phillips said the state party has supported Limes “with training, polling, and special webinars” and that state party personnel were available “to answer any questions she had.”
Phillips thanked Pepper “for his insight in forming the Main Street Initiative and not forgetting the small county voters. It is my goal, and the goal of the Democratic Party, to select qualified, credible candidates.”
Ayres, the local GOP chair, said Thursday that while the county GOP has not made a monetary contribution to Hastings, they have done a mailing for him and “put a lot of sweat equity” into his campaign. She said the local GOP’s work on Hastings’ behalf has been on a par with what the party does for other candidates.
Limes also reported a total of 35 individual contributions. Among the largest individual contributors were Vicki Snow of Sabina, who gave $1,000, Jay Cooper of Hillsboro, who gave $600, and Clarice Miller of Hillsboro, who gave $500. Limes’ report includes several donations of $100 each from various contributors, as well as smaller amounts. Limes also reported a loan of $500 from Vicki Snow.
Hastings reported raising $3,495 and spending $2,865.08. He reported a balance on hand of $629.92. Hastings received no contributions from any party organization or campaign committee.
Hastings reported a total of 22 individual contributions. His largest contributions included $1,000 from Joseph Sodini of Wilmington, $500 from Richard Kallas of Hillsboro, $500 from James and Susan Gibbs of Hillsboro, $200 from Bill Butler of Hillsboro, $200 from Robert and Anne Bagshaw of Hillsboro, and $200 from Joseph Barnette from Sarasota, Fla.
Hastings’ other contributions were $100 and less. He also loaned his campaign $2,820.48, according to his report.
Among her expenditures, Limes spent $2,919.60 on local newspaper and radio advertising. She spent $1,519.79 on signs and sign posts, and $1,047 on postage.
Among his expenditures, Hastings spent $960 on local newspaper advertising, $684.27 on “hand fans and dinner tickets,” and $739.73 on yard signs.
Activity reported on the latest campaign finance filing covers the period through Oct. 14, said Steve Witham, elections administrator of the Highland County Board of Elections. Fundraising and spending that occurs after that date will be included on a post-general report due Dec. 11.
Early voting is ongoing in the mayor’s race as well as other municipal, school board and township contests across Highland County.
As of mid-afternoon Thursday, 419 Hillsboro voters had cast or requested early ballots, including 186 Republicans, 100 Democrats and 133 non-partisan voters.
Across all of Highland County, 1,213 early ballots had been cast or requested, including 598 Republicans, 199 Democrats and 416 non-partisan voters.
Election Day is Tuesday.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.