By Michael D. Pitman
BUTLER COUNTY — Candidates in of Butler County’s highest-profile races this November say they are seeing strong support as they court voters differently.
Candidates for the 4th Ohio Senate District seat, State Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., and Democrat Kathy Wyenandt, say there are challenges campaigning during the novel coronavirus pandemic, but they’re adapting. The Wyenandt-Lang Senate race is a rematch of two years ago, when Lang won the 52nd Ohio House District, but Wyenandt had the best showing in a Statehouse race for any Butler County Democrat in recent years.
“We have been doing quite a few virtual events and some outdoor, socially distanced events,” said Wyendant. “Even though traditional fundraisers have been more of a challenge, we are still aggressively fundraising through all of the other channels, including call time. Campaigns are expensive, and I am very proud to say that we’re right on track.”
Lang said campaigning “requires a personal touch, just like fundraising,” but that personal touch when it comes to the campaign “is a lot more difficult”
Right now Lang said his campaign is focused on phone calls, which are followed up with face-to-face meetings. His campaign is working on a socially distanced in-person fundraiser that could be at the end of September or the beginning of October.
Wyenandt is looking to become the first Butler County Democrat to hold a seat in the General Assembly since the 1970s.
“People here are ready for change,” Wyenandt said. “We saw that in 2018 when a very significant number of Republicans crossed over and voted for me. I hear every day that folks are frustrated with the status quo, and with career politicians putting their own interests first.”
But Lang said Butler County remains solidly conservative despite the number of registered Republicans dropping by nearly 31,000 in the 2020 primary, which is largely attributed to Republicans not voting in the 2018 and 2020 primary elections.
“That’s hard to believe,” Lang said about Democratic Party increasing their presence in Butler County. He said while numbers may have changed, “I don’t think the voter make up changed that dramatically in the last two years.”
Heading into the Nov. 3 general election, Republicans are maintaining a less than 2-to-1 advantage over Democrats, and nearly 190,000 county residents are considered “no party,” which is 29,000 more than 2018 There are 38,045 registered Republicans in 2020, which is down from 68,928 two years ago. Registered Democrats are at 21,808, which is also down, but only by 4,021.
Lang still believes Republican and conservative voters will turn out to support him in November, citing the 2020 primary election. Lang earned nearly 50 percent of the 25,465 votes cast in the primary, and 11 more than 12,568 votes Wyenandt received in her uncontested primary.
But Democrats are outpacing Republicans in vote-by-mail ballot requests this presidential election compared to 2016.
Two months before the start of early voting shows 1,076 mail-in ballots have been requested by Democrats to 503 Republican requests. Four years ago at the same point, Republicans led that request 270 to 105. Absentee ballots will be mailed on Oct. 6, the first day of early voting, and the Ohio Secretary of State will mail all registered voters an application to request a vote-by-mail ballot,
Lang doesn’t believe he has a shot at courting voters “on the far left,” but he will have “an aggressive campaign” to court the right-leaning and moderate voters, which includes radio and television advertising.
But Wyenandt said she has many Republicans supporting her and expects that to be the case in November.
”When it comes to local politics, I find more people are willing to step out of their partisan corners and work together to get things done. We may not agree on every single issue, but they know that I’ll be honest, do the research, and make decisions with them in mind,” she said.