Legislative Profile: D.J. Swearingen

Each week, Ohio Statehouse News profiles one of our state legislators. Representative D.J.Swearingen (R-Huron) is our featured legislator this week.

Rep. Swearingen is serving his first term as state representative. He represents the 89th House District, which encompasses both Erie and Ottawa counties.
Swearingen received his Bachelor’s degree in from Bowling Green State and his Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Dayton School of Law, cum laude. 

 

Why did you become involved in government?   I became involved because I genuinely wanted to work towards common sense solutions to everyday problems that are in the best interests of Ohioans. I hope that when I leave office, whenever that time comes, I can look back and say that I accomplished this.

What are your legislative policy priorities or goals for the upcoming session?         I want everyone in my district to have the opportunity to be able to pursue their life’s ambition and earn a wage that supports their family. This includes prioritizing workforce development initiatives in making sure that our workers have the skills that they need to be successful, working to make sure that our younger generation of Ohioans are job ready when they come out of school, their apprenticeship, or earn their credential, continuing to work towards ending the opioid crisis, and improving the water quality of Lake Erie, among other goals.

What surprises/unexpected challenges did you encounter when you started?Representing around 115,000 with one other person in the office has presented quite the challenge when it comes to fielding all of the constituent questions and requests that come to the office.

How do you stay in touch with your district?  I try to be at community events as much as my schedule will allow. I read all of the area newspapers and follow developments on social media. I will send correspondence from the office frequently, but nothing comes close to actually showing up at a community event and being physically present.

What is the most interesting/unusual request from a constituent?  We get a lot of requests and all of them are important because they come from constituents. I honestly have not received an unusual request yet. I am sure there will be one eventually.

What are some of the attractions or hotspots in your district?  There are absolutely too many to list. We are the tourism capitol of the State, in my opinion, and we have a lot of industry and agriculture in addition to that. We have Lake Erie, beaches, the islands, many great marinas, Cedar Point, Kalahari, the Great Wolf Lodge, the birthplace of Thomas Edison in Milan, a rejuvenated downtown Sandusky, as well as many great places to go bird watching. I am sure that I even left some off the list and for that I apologize in advance. We truly have the best district in the State.

Ohio is so diverse, what are the primary challenges you’re facing?  The primary challenge that we are facing is retaining our young people and providing them opportunities where they can get a good job with good pay – essentially making sure that there are sustainable opportunities here in our area that will make them lifelong and fulfilled residents in the district. There are obviously others like the ones mentioned above – opioids, addressing mental health concerns, and continuing to clean up Lake Erie.

What have you done to help your district?   I have been involved on several different workforce and economic development initiatives, assisted in constituent matters that cover a wide variety of topics primarily helping constituents navigate the many facets of government, and introduced and supported legislation pertinent to my district.

How has your district benefitted from the budget?  Primarily from the funding for cleaning up Lake Erie in addition to the wrap around services included for children, among others

Bill to Remove Vague Language in Ohio’s Conceal-Carry Law

An Ohio legislator is working to protect legal gun owners by removing “vague” terminology from the Ohio code that, he said, puts concealed carry permit holders at risk.

Representative Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) sponsored House Bill 425 which would modify this rule to clarify when and how to notify law enforcement to avoid confusion.

It would require those with concealed carry handgun licenses to verbally tell an officer that they’re armed or hand over that license after being asked for identification. The current law merely requires them to tell law enforcement “promptly.”

Proponents of the legislation are being heard in committee today at the Statehouse.

It is currently a first-degree misdemeanor if a permit holder fails to “promptly” reveal that there is a firearm in the vehicle when pulled over by police.

HB 425 also would downgrade the penalty for not notifying from a first-degree misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 to a civil citation, with a maximum fine of $25.

Wiggam said the new legislation would protect concealed-carry licensees so that they may comfortably answer law enforcement’s questions without fear of being arrested due to subjective notification language and harsh penalties.

Buckeye Firearms Association supports HB 425 and has said that the requirement to “promptly” notify an officer that one is carrying a gun is too vague. The association said this leaves lawful gun owners at risk of being subject to repercussion.

This is the fourth time the Buckeye Firearms Association has made that argument before the General Assembly in recent years. Similar legislation has failed.

Proponents said that 41 of 50 states have no duty to notify, as law enforcement is trained to assume citizens may be in possession is firearms.

Scott Wiggam is Wayne County’s Conservative Champion

A new flashing lights law for horse-drawn vehicles would save lives.

It’s been a top issue from constituents since Rep. Scott Wiggam took office, slow-moving, horse-drawn vehicles on roadways and the resulting collisions. Not surprising, since Wiggam’s House District 1 includes Apple Creek and other Amish-populated communities in Wayne County.

“One of the main complaints is lack of visibility and the speed differential,” said Wiggam (R-Wooster).

Some 120 accidents were reported in Ohio last year, many of which involved serious injury and fatalities.

Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville) was receiving similar complaints. Kick’s district includes Holmes County, which is 42 percent Amish. The two representatives put their heads together and created legislation that they said would increase buggy visibility, reduce collisions and save lives.

“We put together a bill that I believe 100 percent that will save lives,” said Wiggam.

The Roadway Safety Legislation would require that horse-drawn buggies be equipped with flashing yellow lights and new high-visibility reflective tape. But it hasn’t been an easy sell to some Amish communities. Currently, Ohio code requires only one light on front of the buggy, one reflector in the rear and a slow-moving vehicle emblem.

The new law would require that the flashing lights be active during daylight hours, as well. “Anytime they are using the roadways they would need to be on,” said Kick.

The lights would likely be battery or solar powered.
Ohio has the highest number of Amish in the nation, with a population nearing 60,000.

The two representatives have met with Bishops of several Amish orders and are awaiting their input.

Some Amish in the state have taken it upon themselves to install flashing lights and high visibility reflective tape, said Wiggam. Other Amish sects, however, have held out citing religious reasons. Kick said that once the law would go into effect, those not abiding by the ruling would be ticketed.
There have been more than 870 crashes involving horse drawn buggies since 2014, according to data.

Wiggam explained that Amish lives are more threatened in a collision because of the speed differential and the weight of the vehicle vs the weight of the buggy. The representative said the bulk of collisions occur during daylight hours.

“You can see the flashing light before you can see the vehicle,” said Kick.
The lights would be mounted at the top of the buggy, according to Wiggam. “Either the back uppermost part of the buggy or the top,” said Wiggam. “Both would work.”

There are many different Amish groups, within the statewide Amish community .

“Some are much more progressive in lighting of their vehicles with battery or solar powered, even turn signals,” said Kick. “Some in the older order Amish don’t want any type of reflective tape, making them flashy. It’s not an easy sale for some.

“This has been requested for many years,” added Kick. “A lot of people feel it’s time to bring them up to date for the sake of safety.”

Driving in Amish communities is different than driving on other rural or urban highways.

In Amish communities you will see horse-drawn buggies or equipment on the roadway as they travel to town or the fields. Statistics show that more than 65 percent of all traffic deaths occur in rural areas and 50 percent of those deaths are on country roads, according to statistics from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The legislators said the new bill would bring uniformity across the state.

Since 2014, there have been over 872 reported crashes involving an animal with a rider or an animal-drawn vehicle in Ohio, including at least 18 fatal crashes that killed 20 people, according to statistics.

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Ohio Death Penalty on Life Support

Regardless of legislators’ stand on the death penalty, Ohio won’t be conducting executions anytime soon. The state’s access to lethal injection drugs has been blocked by pharmaceutical companies, leaving officials with a law on the books that cannot be enforced.

With 138 inmates on Ohio’s death row, executions are at a standstill. Ohio’s last execution was July 2018.

Difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs and the expense of prosecuting and appealing death-penalty cases has lawmakers questioning if Ohio’s death penalty should be phased out.

Gov. Mike DeWine asked legislative leaders to consider repealing Ohio’s 18-year-old law. Since taking office in January 2019, DeWine has granted numerous death penalty reprieves due to lack of necessary pharmaceuticals.

Drug companies oppose the use of their drugs for executions and DeWine has expressed concern that drug makers could withhold the medications for other purposes if their drugs are used for lethal injection.

The governor’s most recent warrants of reprieve were issued for condemned prisoners Gregory Lott, John Stumpf, and Warren “Keith” Henness. The inmates were scheduled to die later this year. DeWine moved Lott’s and Stumpf’s executions to 2021 and Henness’ execution to 2022.

Another concern of lawmakers is the cost of imposing the death penalty. The appeals process for convicted capitol offenders can take years to decades. Taxpayers are often left footing the bill for attorneys on both sides.

Ohio is one of 29 states with the death penalty.

Unfortunately, Ohio does not have specific data on costs associated with the death penalty. A study comparing costs of death penalty cases and life without parole cases in the state hasn’t been conducted in over a decade. The weight of evidence, however, suggests that death penalty cases nationwide are more expensive than life without parole cases.

A 2016 fiscal analysis reviewed fourteen state and federal studies on the topic and all found death penalty cases to be more expensive than life without parole cases, usually to the tune of $1.2 million more spent on death penalty cases in 2015 dollars.

Earlier this month, The Columbus Dispatch called upon Ohio legislators to end the death penalty. Given Ohio’s lethal-injection dilemma and policy concerns, the Dispatch concluded, “The only reason left for execution is vengeance, which is not an element of justice or the proper business of the state. It’s time for Ohio to do away with the death penalty.”

Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty released a statement asking states to repeal the death penalty. In a webcast press conference last year, the organization highlighted on-going efforts by conservative advocates in Ohio, Utah, and Wyoming to abolish the death penalty in those states.

The organization stated that the death penalty is a failed policy that does not keep communities safe or help victims’ families heal.

 

 

School Voucher Fix Continues to Evade Ohio Lawmakers

The Senate rejected changes made to SB 89 by the House on Wednesday, leaving many families in limbo while lawmakers continue their search for a solution to Ohio’s private school voucher program.

The bill initially focused on career-technical education but was amended by the House to address the EdChoice Scholarship Program and other topics.

The Senate voted 24-7 to scrap the House changes.

The Senate argued that the plan was not ready for passage, pointing to an ongoing conference committee process on a Senate voucher proposal, HB 9, as the more appropriate bill to fix the issue.

SB 89 has statewide support from education groups.

State Representative Jamie Callender (R-Concord) explained that the House and Senate have slightly different views and the leadership is working them out.

As for Ohio families that are awaiting an answer, Callender said, “Speaking from the House side, we are cognizant of the impact this has on them and we are working diligently to reach a responsible solution.”

Senator Andrew Brenner, who voted to reject the changes, said he saw numerous problems with the bill. “They added a lot of Ed Policy in there that really needs some work,” said Brenner.

Brenner said that it’s more likely the Senate will move forward with HB 9. “That seems like the more intelligent approach to me, instead of conferencing on a bill with the exact same stuff,” he said.

This recent action sets the stage for dueling conference committees, one in support of SB 89 and the other in support of HB 9. Both could potentially address the voucher issue.

Without legislative action, the list of schools in which students are eligible based on their school’s performance would more than double to about 1,200 for the 2020-2021 school year.

The Senate proposal would keep the current numbers while expanding the eligibility threshold for vouchers available based on family income from 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to 300 percent.

Legislative Profile: Thomas E. Brinkman Jr.

Each week, Ohio Statehouse News profiles one of our state legislators. Representative Thomas E. Brinkman Jr. (R- Mt. Lookout) is our featured legislator this week.

Rep. Brinkman is serving his third term as state representative. A life-long Cincinnati resident, Brinkman is a graduate of George Washington University in Washington, DC.  He represents the 27th Ohio House District, which includes portions of eastern Hamilton County.

Why did you become involved in government?

I wanted to impact public policy to make Ohio a better place to live.

What are your legislative policy priorities or goals for the upcoming session?

Lower taxes and limit government.

What surprises or unexpected challenges did you encounter when you started. 

An unwillingness to make Ohio a leader in ANYTHING!

If you could change one thing with the state system, what would it be?

Stop the appointment process to fill vacated elected positions. Have a placeholder fill the seat and let the citizens petition to stand for election them compete and win or lose.

How do you stay in touch with your district?

Drive home from Columbus every day after session. I have not spent a night in Columbus in over 13 years in the Ohio House.

what is the most interesting/unusual request from a constituent?

Will you be my friend? Of course!

What are some of the attractions or hotspots in your district?

The Little Miami River Valley which has many different park and recreational areas.

Ohio is so diverse, what are the primary challenges you’re facing?

We are a diverse state and bridging the divide is hard.

What have you done to help your district?

Improved the quality of life by supporting personal freedom, and park and recreational facilities.

How has your district benefitted from the budget?

Lower taxes.

“Distracted Driving” Could Soon be a Primary Offense

Lawmakers held the first hearing on House Bill 468 Tuesday, legislation that would make distracted driving a statewide primary offense.

Using a cellular device while driving currently is a secondary offense in Ohio, meaning police must witness another offense before pulling over a driver.

Representative  Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) said the purpose of the bill is to keep Ohioans safe.

“What we’re doing is making it a primary offense to be using your handheld electronic device while you’re driving, other than just in a very few ways,” said Lightbody, who represents Ohio District 19, including part of Franklin County.

“The whole goal of this is to keep people safe on the highway, including nearby pedestrians,” said Lightbody. “If you can engage with your device wirelessly, without touching your device, that is allowed. You cannot engage or interact with a game or view Netflix.”

Lightbody said use of navigational apps would be acceptable, as long as the device was not being held in the driver’s hand.

“You can dial and receive a phone call, but you cannot conduct the call with the device in your hand,” said Lightbody. “The conversation has to be wireless or through speaker phone.”

The bill is in the Transportation and Public Safety Committee.

The legislator said it is already a primary offense in some cities and municipalities in Ohio to use a cellular device while driving, including Columbus, Bexley and Westerville.

Auto insurance companies and law enforcement support the bill, she said.

Lightbody said that police officers detect use of phones by watching the behavior of drivers.

“Anyone who is driving erratically, they can approach and look to see what the driver is doing,” said the legislator. “There’s a police officer in Columbus who has been very active in enforcing Columbus’s primary offense law. He looks for an activity called head bobbing. He holds his body cam up to the window, so he’s documenting that this person is using their call phone.”

In response to those that feel the law would be too far-reaching, Lightbody said, “There are laws that govern how we drive, like stopping at a stop sign or staying within the speed limit. This would be one of those laws. The whole point is to keep everyone safe including the drivers of those cars, passengers and nearby pedestrians.”

Governor Mike DeWine previously stated that he supports making distracted driving a primary offense in order to curtail the number of deaths and crashes caused by inattentive drivers.

Advocates of Automatic Voter Registration Make Second Attempt at Ballot Initiative

Opponents argue AVR threatens election security, creates administrative burden and encourages ill-informed voting.

A revised petition to allow Automatic Voter Registration on Ohio’s November ballot was submitted to state officials Monday.

The filing is the first part of a multi-step process that eventually will require the campaign to gather signatures from hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters so that the measure can be placed on the ballot.

Under the proposed constitutional amendment, Ohioans would automatically be registered to vote upon applying for or renewing a driver’s license or other state-issued ID. Supporters of automatic registration say that it increases turnout, allows for updating and correcting voter rolls, and aligns with the goal of election security.

The first draft was rejected by the the Ohio Attorney General because the summary was longer than the language for the actual constitutional amendment. The office also said the summary included a paragraph of text that’s not included in the amendment.

Opponents of Automatic Voter Registration argue that it threatens election security, creates an administrative burden on election officials, and encourages ill-informed voting.

Members of “Secure and Fair Elections” and a collection of voting rights advocates delivered the revised petition. The coalition is led by the ACLU of Ohio
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Twenty-one states currently have same-day voter registration. About a dozen more have some manner of automated voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Per the Attorney General’s request, the updated summary is what advocates will use when circulating the initiative for signatures.

The group will need to collect about 443,000 valid signatures by July to qualify for the November ballot.

The measure would reinstate and expand what previously was referred to as “Golden Week,” which state lawmakers eliminated in 2014. Another element of the proposed amendment is a required, statewide post-election audit.

Proof of residency is a key requirement in all states that offer same day registration.

In a traditional (pre-Election Day) registration, which is what Ohio currently uses, election officials have time to send a non-forwardable mailing to the prospective voter in order to verify the voter’s residence before processing the registration application.

Because that isn’t possible with AVR, the prospective voter must present proof of residency at the time of registration or soon after registering. A current driver’s license or ID card will suffice in all states. In some states, documents such as a paycheck or utility bill with an address is acceptable for proving residence.

A few states also permit an already-registered voter to vouch for the residency of an Election Day registrant.

Other elements of the proposal would put guarantees in writing that military service members and overseas citizens receive their ballots on time and that voters with disabilities have equal access to the polls.

The Attorney General’s office said in a statement that its role is to determine whether the summary is a “fair and truthful representation of the proposed the group acknowledges that rejected petition language is a common practice and it says they will be refiling.”

Opinion: Ohio Democratic Party Chairman’s Trolling of Portman Getting Old

Repost from Cincinnati.com

A few days ago, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper penned a bizarre screed attacking U.S. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, by alleging some imaginary misdeed involving Ukraine. 

David Pepper, then a candidate for Ohio attorney general, speaks with The Enquirer’s editorial board on October 2, 2014. The Enquirer/Leigh Taylor

David Pepper, then a candidate for Ohio attorney general, speaks with The Enquirer’s editorial board on October 2, 2014. The Enquirer/Leigh Taylor (Photo: The Enquirer/Leigh Taylor)

If you follow Pepper on Twitter, this will be nothing new. Pepper has an almost maniacal obsession with trolling Senator Portman. Ever since Portman’s reelection in 2016, Pepper has been assailing him daily.

It’s not clear what Pepper’s problem is with Portman. They’re both from Cincinnati, raised by successful families and attended top-notch universities. The only stark difference between them is their careers.

Portman is a highly respected and successful politician by both election and appointment. He has been elected seven times to Congress and twice to the Senate. He has served as a director of the Office of Management and Budget and U.S. trade representative.

Pepper’s career in public service is less impressive. He was off to a pretty good start getting elected to Cincinnati City Council, but then lost a campaign for mayor. Then he was elected as a Hamilton County commissioner in 2006, and that was his last winning election for public office. In 2010, he ran for auditor of state, losing to Dave Yost, and then for attorney general, losing to Mike DeWine.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, left, with Cincinnati's Jim Obergefell, at the Democratic National Convention in July.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, left, with Cincinnati’s Jim Obergefell, at the Democratic National Convention in July. (Photo: The Enquirer/Jason Williams)

In 2015, Pepper was elected chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

A state party chairman has one job, and that is to elect members of their party to public office. To get that job done, you only have to do two things: raise money and recruit good candidates. To be fair, there’s a lot of work that goes into completing those two tasks to achieve that singular goal. I know, because I did it for four years as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

By both measures, Pepper and the Ohio Democratic Party haven’t done very well.

The 2018 election was THE big year for Democrats; midterm elections tend to be a disaster for the party in the White House, and all five statewide offices were open seats.  Democrats had some success in many states that year, but not Ohio. Republicans swept all five statewide offices that “Democrat wave” year.

Using nearly every possible metric, the party is failing this cycle, too. A Republican supermajority in the state Senate. Check. A near 2-to-1 Republican state House majority. Check. A strong and vibrant GOP congressional delegation chock full of key committee slots and nationally recognized party leaders. You betcha. Of course, there’s all those statewide constitutional offices Republicans hold – with officials who are popular and working alongside a robust Ohio Republican Party. 

And if all that weren’t enough, consider that just this week it was announced Ohio’s Republican Supreme Court candidates outraised their likely Democratic opponents nearly 15-1. That’s a staggering amount and illustrates the stark comparison between a vibrant Republican Party and state Democratic Party lacking leadership and aimlessly adrift. 

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, arrives at the Capitol in Washington during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, arrives at the Capitol in Washington during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Photo: Julio Cortez, AP)

You may be wondering why a lifelong Republican would care about the fortunes of the Ohio Democratic Party.  

Strong Republican and Democratic parties provide stability and create healthy competition. Like Ray C. Bliss – the legendary county, state and national Republican chairman – I believe the two-party system is the key to the past success and future of our republic. That’s part of it.

Another part of it, I’m tired of Pepper’s one-man rant against Portman. Rob Portman is the kind of thoughtful, talented and hardworking politician that succeeds in Ohio. I like our senator and so do many Ohioans; he won his first election by 18 points and his reelection by 23 points! Frankly, Pepper trolling Portman is getting old.

The last part of it is an act of compassion. Pepper can’t be enjoying life very much behind a laptop or mobile phone hurling insults at Portman. Pepper has become the Jim Harbaugh of Ohio politics.

Kevin DeWine is a former Ohio Republican Party chairman and speaker pro tem of the Ohio House of Representatives.

House Candidate Joe Dills Loses Endorsement of Ohio Republican Party

The Ohio Republican Party’s governing body withdrew its endorsement of legislative candidate Joe Dills Thursday night, citing concerns about the candidate’s activity on a married dating website. 

Dills had the endorsement of the state Republican party until information recently surfaced of Dills’ involvement with the Ashley Madison site. This prompted the Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman, Jane Timken, to ask that Dills leave the race for the 65th House District, but Dills refused.

The candidate admitted on Facebook that he had an Ashley Madison account while a single man in 2013. In an email to cleveland.com, Dills reportedly said that while it was “wrong” for him to join the site, he intended to stay in the race. 

“It has come to my attention that there is additional information regarding Mr. Dills using a second account on Ashley Madison while he was married to his current wife,” Timken said, in a statement. “I want to be clear, Ashley Madison is a site for discreet affairs – affairs between married people.”

Dills, of Union Township,  is one of three Republicans running for the 65th House District seat, along with former U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt and pistol instructor Dillon Blevins. The district includes northern and western Clermont County.

Timken continued, “Moreover, Joe emphatically declared he never used this site while married to his current wife. I feel for his family in this time, and wish that he would have been open and transparent when the initial report came out,” said the GOP chairman. “I stand by my previous statement and urge him to do what’s best for his family and community – immediately withdraw from this race.”

Ohio GOP Communications Director, Evan Machan, said the organization recently received additional condemnatory information about Dills.

“Starting on Friday, January 24, we received information stating that Joe Dills had actively used the website Ashley Madison to meet married women,” stated Machan. “Upon receiving these reports and in an effort to shield Joe’s family from public embarrassment, at my request, and through back channels we asked Mr. Dills to withdraw from the race.”

Machan stated that the back channel discussions deteriorated and Dills stated publicly that he would not withdraw and that he never used these sites while married to his current wife. 

“Early this week, we received new reports that this was far from the truth,” Machan said in the statement. “Starting with the Cincinnati Enquirer publishing that his wife had shown up to his work and, “believed her husband was having an affair* followed by a report that he had another Ashley Madison account that was active in 2015 – a year after him and his current wife were married – it was clear that Mr. Dills lied to the public.”

*Source: Miami Township Police Report, Incident Number 1-16-000904, Narrative Reporting Office Steven Burgess

Earlier Thursday, the House GOP’s campaign arm reportedly gave state party leaders 116 pages of opposition research about Dills. The document detailed tax liens, traffic records and allegations of shoving his ex-wife.  

“Joe Dills clearly isn’t ready for this public exposure. It’s only going to get worse,” according to the document which included research by FAR Public Affairs, LLC.

Timken said she did not know the firm that had prepared the report but it contained mostly public records. 

The alleged abuse was detailed in a background investigation report completed when Dills applied to the Ohio Highway Patrol in 2015. In the report, Dills’ first wife said he “grabbed her arm, picked her up and slammed her on the ground” during a heated argument in 2010. 

Dills’ ex-wife did not report the incident to police at the time and told the Ohio Highway Patrol investigator that it was the only time Dills had laid a hand on her, according to the background report. Dills told the patrol investigator that he was defending himself and had never struck a woman.

State party officials reportedly verified the dating site information by comparing it to their own copy of the Ashley Madison files that were leaked in 2015 after the site was hacked, according to a GOP official. Following the hack, the state party downloaded all of the hacked files, which contain data on about 32 million users.

The files can be searched by the public as well, via searchable websites.