Democrats are criticizing Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, for being the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC, in addition to representing his district prior to the upcoming election.
Stivers, who has represented Ohio’s 15th congressional district since 2011, has been the chairman of the NRCC since 2017. The NRCC is the Republican Party’s campaign fundraising arm which focuses on raising money to reelect Republican majorities across the state. Stivers is also a Brigadier General in the Ohio Army National Guard.
Rick Neal, Stivers’ Democratic opponent, said he believes having the NRCC position takes away from how well the congressman can represent his district. Neal said because Stivers travels all around the country to pay attention to other districts, he doesn’t pay attention to what is happening in his own.
“What his supporters don’t realize is how angry people are at the way that he has left (the district) behind,” Neal said.
Adam Rapien, Stivers’ campaign manager, said representing the district takes priority over being chairman of the NRCC. He said Stivers is able to do both jobs without sacrificing one for the other.
David Pepper, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said it doesn’t make a lot of sense for someone who represents a struggling district to have a position like that. He said despite being such a high-profile candidate, Stivers’ incumbency and prominence in the Republican Party puts him at a disadvantage.
“I really think that being an incumbent, being apart of broken Washington, and unwilling to stand up to (President) Trump on anything, that this is not a good year to be one,” Pepper said. “I think being fresh and new is a good place to be.”
Despite that, Stivers is outraising his opponent. He has $3,007,041.38 in contributions while Neal has $646,910.25 during 2018, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Neal said Stivers is a very powerful, well-supported politician and he has plenty of big financial interests backing him that would probably prefer to see him in office. He said Stivers seems to have no trouble raising money from PACs.
Cole Neuhart, the political director for the Ohio University College Republicans said the Republican Party is investing a lot in the 15th district because it is such an important district.
During the last reporting period, the FEC reported Neal out-raised Stivers, but the majority of that money came from his own finances through a loan he made to himself, according to a Columbus Dispatch article.
“Having the resources to get your message out is important in any campaign,” Rapien said in an email. “Unlike our opponent, we do not have the ability to self fund our campaign.”
The 15th congressional district has been a solid Republican district ever since Stivers beat Democratic incumbent Mary Jo Kilroy in the 2010 election. Stivers has received more than 60 percent of the vote in every election after that.
The Cook Political Report has the race rated as R+7 and “Solid Republican.”
Neal said he is optimistic despite what the polls and predictions are saying. Because the special election for Ohio’s 12th district was so close, his race could have a similar outcome in November, Neal added.
On August 7, Republican Troy Balderson beat Democrat Danny O’Connor in the special election by a margin of 0.8 percent. The 12th and 15th are similar in makeup since they both include the suburbs of Columbus but also stretch into more rural areas of Ohio. Both districts have a history of being Republican districts.
Neal said the similarities between the districts and the results of the special election show his race will be closer than people think.
Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly named the Federal Election Commission. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.