Report: Reclaiming Our Democracy

Making Safe Seats Safer

Released by: Research for The Rest of Us

Large campaign contributions allow wealthy donors to unduly influence who can run for office and who wins elections in Ohio. This analysis examines the role of campaign contributions in influencing the outcome of Ohio elections.

The candidate who raised the most money won 95% of the time. 

• Big money won 18 of 18 congressional races, 16 of 16 state senate races, and 92 of 99 state house races.

Winning candidates significantly outraised their opponents. 

• In congressional races, winners raised five times as much as their opponents and had a total cash advantage of $15 million.

• In state senate races, winners raised twelve times as much as their opponents and had total a cash advantage of $9.7 million.

• In state house races, winners raised four times as much as their opponents and had a total cash advantage of $11 million.

Slanted districts are even worse.

Fundraising discrepancies are even larger in districts that are slanted heavily toward one party as a result of gerrymandering in the redistricting process. Excluding uncontested races:

• In safe congressional seats, winners raised 11 times as much as their opponents. In less safe seats, winners raised 2.4 times as much.

• In safe state senate seats, winners raised 37 times as much as their opponents. In less safe senate seats, winners raised seven times as much as their opponents.

• In safe house seats, winners raised five times as much as their opponents. In less safe seats, winners raised 2.6 times as much as their opponents.

Dual disadvantages.

Campaign fundraising and gerrymandering both tilt the playing field in favor of some candidates and against others. Our final analysis looked out how these forces work in tandem. 

• For 14 congressional and 13 state senate races, the dual advantages predicted 100% of the results for non-competitive districts.

• In the 84 non-competitive state house districts, only seven candidates overcame the district advantage. Five of those seven did so by dramatically outspending their opponents.

• In only 2 of 111 non-competitive districts did a candidate beat the odds by winning in a district where the partisan makeup disadvantaged them while also facing an opponent who raised more money.

• In 98% of these non-competitive districts, one or more of the dual advantages of campaign financing or district gerrymandering prevailed.

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