LaRose becomes political target after Issue 1 flop
Republican Frank LaRose had a lot on the line when voters went to the polls on Aug. 8.
- As secretary of state, it was his responsibility to ensure a smooth election day and encourage citizens to cast ballots.
- Meanwhile, as a major Issue 1 supporter and U.S. Senate candidate, he publicly urged a yes vote on the only ballot item, which would have raised the threshold for constitutional amendment passage to 60%.
Why it matters: The collision of LaRose's professional and personal interests has made him a central target across the political spectrum following the demise of Issue 1.
State of play: Just as Issue 1 was a proxy for November's abortion rights amendment, LaRose's support was a proxy for his Senate campaign hopes in 2024.
- It was a high risk, high reward strategy — victory last Tuesday could have helped thwart the abortion amendment and made LaRose a hero among anti-abortion conservatives.
Instead, LaRose became the face of defeat in a 14-point drubbing that cost Ohio taxpayers $20 million.
- Ohio Democrats are calling him "Issue 1's biggest loser."
- Fellow GOP Senate candidate Bernie Moreno's campaign called the special election result a "preview of what would happen with Frank LaRose at the top of the ticket in 2024," per NBC News.
- The Libertarian Party even filed a Hatch Act complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel alleging LaRose's support for Issue 1 was illegal because of his role as secretary of state.
The big picture: It's not uncommon for secretaries of state to comment on political issues, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
- But it is notable that this involved a chief elections officer taking a stand on an elections issue, he told Axios two days after the election.
What he's saying: LaRose defended his actions to WKYC-TV by claiming all campaign work was done on his "personal time."
- After abandoning his secretary of state media availability on election day because of protesters at his polling place, LaRose spun the Issue 1 result as part of a broader fight "to protect Ohio's values."
Between the lines: Though LaRose hitched himself to a losing cause, Kondik thinks the statewide campaigning may have helped build name recognition with GOP voters.
- Voters' memories are short and the fate of November's abortion rights amendment is likely to overshadow the result of this special election.
What we're watching: The extent of LaRose's involvement with the anti-abortion rights campaign this fall.
- His office did not respond to Axios' questions regarding whether LaRose would actively campaign against the amendment or support Issue 1 if presented another time to voters.
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