Dr. Amy Acton confirms she’s considering U.S. Senate run: Capitol Letter

Rotunda Rumblings

Doctor, doctor, give me the news: Former Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton confirmed the speculation that she is considering running for Senate, Seth Richardson reports. Acton, a Democrat, stepped down from her job at The Columbus Foundation as well, an indication that she is leaning toward getting into the race.

Family tradition: Lordstown Motors, the electric vehicle startup that’s redeveloping the former Lordstown GM plant, has hired Gov. Mike DeWine’s 22-year-old grandson as a lobbyist as they look for help from the state government in launching their business. As Andrew Tobias reports, Matt DeWine is lobbying the legislature, not the executive branch, which the company says insulates against any appearance of favoritism. Lordstown Motors hired the younger DeWine as an intern last June, the same month DeWine held a public event outside the plant.

Lessons learned: Laura Hancock looked at the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, in which pharmacy companies vaccinated residents and workers in Ohio nursing homes in a month, in contrast to the pace of the rest of Ohio’s coronavirus vaccination effort. She found that the federal government and pharmacies were responsible for the effort, whose success DeWine continues to celebrate, crediting the state being involved early. She talked to experts in Ohio, at Harvard University and at Johns Hopkins about what the state can learn from the program.

Executive assistance: At least 16 executives from the banking and insurance industries are being “loaned” to help the state’s beleaguered unemployment benefits program, DeWine announced Thursday. As Jeremy Pelzer reports, the execs intend to provide guidance with processing claims, combating fraud, and operating call centers.

Ship comes in: Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine to Ohio are expected to increase by 40% in mid-February. Moderna shipments are expected to increase next week. Hancock also reports that Ohio’s curfew may be on track to be lifted next week.

Thursday figures: The number of new Ohio coronavirus cases on Thursday was 4,120, and the seven-day rolling average for cases was 4,931. It was the first time it’s come in under 5,000 since Nov. 15, when the average was 4,761, Hancock reports.

K-12 numbers: Coronavirus numbers continue to tick slightly down in schools, according to weekly data released Thursday. Emily Bamforth reports more schools are heading back to buildings as vaccines are distributed to school staff, and cases are slowing in Ohio, generally.

Why Ohio is so red: Ohio’s weekly coronavirus alert map, originally designed to educate the public on county-level concerns for spread based on a variety of seven criteria, has evolved into a single test for nearly every Ohio county. Rich Exner reports that it now really comes down to the number of new cases per capita. But, even so, the weekly reports are worse for some orange counties than they are for red counties.

Room for more: The Cleveland Cavaliers got a second variance from the state that will allow them to host up to 2,720 spectators at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse – 14% of the arena’s capacity, Chris Fedor reports. The limit had been 2,000.

Greenbacks for Greene: Champaign County Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan backed controversial Georgia Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s election to Congress with campaign cash and an endorsement calling her “exactly the kind of fighter needed in Washington to stand with me against the radical left,” Sabrina Eaton reports. Jordan also vocally opposed Democrats’ vote to remove her from the committees that Republicans assigned to her upon her arrival in Congress. Jordan and all other Ohio members voted against removal.

Defending Trump: After leading President Donald Trump’s defense during last month’s U.S. House impeachment vote over Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, Jordan’s role during his Senate impeachment trial will be to make the case to acquit President Trump across numerous local and national media appearances, Eaton reports.

Committee approves Fudge: Members of the U.S. Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Thursday approved Warrensville Heights Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge’s nomination to be President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in a bipartisan 17 to 7 vote, writes Eaton. The committee’s chairman, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, said he will ask Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to bring Fudge’s nomination before the full Senate as soon as possible, but said it could be delayed by the upcoming impeachment trial.

Another opioid settlement: Ohio will receive more than $24 million out of $600 million settlement reached between 49 states and a consultant for opioid companies accused of contributing to hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths. As Eric Heisig reports, McKinsey & Company advised OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and other drugmakers on how to market and sell more addictive painkillers while the U.S. saw record-high overdose death rates.

Claims adjustment: “New unemployment benefits claims fell about 4.4% in Ohio last week, though ongoing claims were up by nearly 5.7%,” Pelzer writes. It’s the first time in a month that new jobless claims haven’t gone up in Ohio, though both new and continued claims are still far higher than they were at this time last year.

Left the Barnes door open: Former state Rep. John Barnes Jr. became the fifth candidate to enter the race for the 11th Congressional District to succeed Fudge, Richardson writes. Barnes served two stints in the Ohio statehouse and unsuccessfully challenged Ohio Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko in 2018.

Housing help: Toledo Democratic Rep. U.S. Marcy Kaptur introduced a bill Thursday with Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib to establish a $5 billion grant program to remedy blight by providing dedicated federal money for local community development and rehabilitation efforts. Kaptur said money from their “Restoring Communities Left Behind Act” could be used for homeowner rehabilitation assistance, weatherization, improved housing accessibility for seniors and people with disabilities, housing counseling, refinancing, property tax relief and more. “To improve our housing stock and benefit our neighborhoods would make us all ‘Lorain Proud!’” said a statement from Lorain Mayor Jack Bradley.

Money for deceased: Exner has advice in his personal finance column for people who lost loved ones last year: make sure both rounds of stimulus money were collected for the deceased person. If payments weren’t received, they can be claimed in completing their 2020 tax forms, something often handled by family members after a person dies, the IRS confirms. This is a reversal from the position the government held last summer. This, however, is not the case for people who died before 2020.

Buckeye Brain Tease

Question: One of the first Cesarean sections in the U.S. was performed in Newtown, Ohio, near Cincinnati, in 1827. Name the physician who performed it.

Email your response to The first correct respondent will be mentioned in next week’s newsletter.

Thanks for responding to last week’s trivia question:

What famous Ohio archeological site was first acquired from a local landowner by Harvard University in 1887, studied and restored and later deeded to what was then the Ohio State Archeological and Historical Society?

Answer: Serpent Mound

Capitol Letter readers Katie Eagan of Cincinnati and Michael Eshleman, Otero County Attorney from Alamogordo, New Mexico, were the first to send in the correct answer.

On The Move

Justin Barasky is joining the strategy firm Left Hook as a partner. Barasky, who managed U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s 2018 re-election campaign, most recently served as a senior adviser at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Democratic operative Spencer Dirrig has been hired as political director for the Ohio Environmental Council. Dirrig managed state Senate campaigns for Crystal Lett in 2020 and Louise Valentine in 2018.

Ryan Burgess has been hired as the new president and CEO of Goodwill Columbus. He previously was cabinet secretary for Gov. Mike DeWine.


Friday 2/5: State Rep. Janine Boyd

Sunday 2/7: Devin Bilski, deputy director of boards and commissions, Gov. Mike DeWine’s office

Jo Ingles, Ohio Public Radio

Rachel Massoud, policy analyst for the County Commissioners Association of Ohio

Lauren Payne, legislative aide to state Rep. Tim Ginter

Angie Phifer, legislative aide to state Rep. Monique Smith

Straight from the Source

“If it’s wrong to honor a President who presided over the strongest economy in history and created jobs for Ohioans… Not sure I want to be right.”

– Ohio Republican Party Chair and potential U.S. Senate candidate Jane Timken, tweeting Thursday in support of an Ohio House GOP resolution declaring June 14 “President Donald J. Trump Day.”

Capitol Letter is a daily briefing providing succinct, timely information for those who care deeply about the decisions made by state government. If you do not already subscribe, you can sign up here to get Capitol Letter in your email box each weekday for free.

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