COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose launched his reelection bid on Monday, touting the state’s smooth 2020 election even as many fellow Republicans expressed unfounded doubts in the presidential result and GOP lawmakers are backing a major rewrite of state voting laws.
LaRose, 42, released a one-minute video along with his announcement that emphasizes his physical fitness, military background, political experience and young family.
“Every legal ballot was counted — a record-shattering 6 million — and the people of Ohio made their voice heard,” he says to the camera. “While other states struggled, Ohio got it right. Because there’s nothing more important than protecting your vote.”
By hyperfocusing his message on Ohio, LaRose may hope to walk the line of not alienating skeptics who have adopted former President Donald Trump’s assertion without proof that the 2020 election was stolen while also reassuring those who fear Republicans are working to disenfranchise them.
“Is there a crowd of people that believe some sort of mythology about elections that could use maybe a lesson from me to show them the facts about how those kinds of things don’t happen in Ohio, and how Ohio runs a trustworthy election?” he said in an interview Monday. “Absolutely, and I don’t mind doing that.”
At the same time, LaRose, a former state senator and veteran of the U.S. Army Green Berets, said he would not turn down an endorsement from Trump.
“I’m not going to get into the business of denying or turning down anybody’s endorsement. But, listen, he’s a Florida resident,” he said. “What I care about is the people of Ohio, and a lot of Ohioans support me.”
Democrats have blasted the proposed election law overhaul, which contains some LaRose priorities, as voter suppression. It includes, among other things, an extension of the one-dropbox site-per-county limit imposed by LaRose in 2020 that Democrats characterize as “nonsensical.”
In a fundraising email to supporters, Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes — a prospective challenger to LaRose — called the bill “so draconian that the Georgia law looks mild in comparison.”
LaRose said the legislation makes “modest changes” to Ohio election law, including taking absentee ballot requests online and automating voter registration at Bureaus of Motor Vehicles.
He said exaggerating the negative impacts of the legislation creates “a crying wolf problem” that Democrats won’t be trusted to call out real voter suppression if it ever does arise.
“To look at that bill and to call that voter suppression, I think cheapens the word,” he said.
LaRose’s launch marks the first of the 2022 cycle among Ohio incumbents. Gov. Mike DeWine, Attorney General Dave Yost, Auditor Keith Faber and Treasurer Robert Sprague, all Republicans, are all expected to run again.
Democrats have not yet announced their 2022 slate.
This story has been corrected to show that LaRose’s orders and a legislative proposal limit dropbox sites, not individual dropboxes, to one per county.