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Politically Speaking is WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson's column that examines the world of politics and how it shapes the world around us.

Analysis: George Santos, a filing deadline spat and more weirdness in Ohio's GOP Senate race

a man in a maroon suit, red tie and glasses stands outside of the capitol building surrounded by reporters holding phones
J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., speaks to reporters outside the Capitol, in Washington, May 17, 2023.

Don't ask me how, but the disgraced and expelled congressman George Santos of New York has gotten mixed up in Ohio's increasingly nasty Republican Senate primary.

Santos has made a video thanking Senate candidate Bernie Moreno, the Cleveland-area luxury car dealer, for maxing out on campaign contributions to the serial fabulist's 2022 congressional campaign.

In the meantime, another Senate candidate, Frank LaRose, seems to be playing a game of hide-the-pea to avoid explaining just where a self-described "thousandaire" got the wherewithal to loan his campaign $250,000.

And, in irony of ironies, LaRose is being hammered by two opponents, Moreno and State Sen. Matt Dolan — two extremely wealthy men who have lent their campaigns millions of dollars and could afford to shell out even more if they think it would push them over the top in the March primary.

They are pushing LaRose hard to file the Senate personal finances statement required of all candidates — a statement that is nowhere to be seen more than 100 days after the original deadline.

RELATED: Campaign finance filings show LaRose last in list of Ohio's 2024 candidates for U.S. Senate

Can't say for certain, but one guy who is likely getting a big laugh out of all of this is the incumbent senator they want to run against next fall: Democrat Sherrod Brown.

The clock is ticking on the LaRose campaign to file the personal financial statement, which may or may not shed light on how an elected official like LaRose, who makes $124,176 per year, can afford to lend his senate campaign a quarter of a million dollars.

The original deadline for the report was in mid-August. LaRose asked for a 90-day extension, which was granted. Nothing unusual there; candidates do that all the time.

But, on Nov. 14, the 90-day extension came and went; and still no report. Under the rules, there is a 30-day grace period which, presumably, means that LaRose has to file by Thursday of next week.

"We are using the full amount of time allowed by the committee, which includes 30 additional days before it's considered late," said LaRose campaign spokesman Ben Kindel. "It's worth noting Frank has filed publicly available financial disclosures for years now including one filed this year."

Kindel is referring to the annual personal finance statements required by the state of Ohio. And LaRose has done that in his years as Ohio Secretary of State and as a state legislator.

But those state filings don't contain nearly the amount of detailed financial information that the Senate filing requires.

RELATED: How Ohio's 2024 Senate primary is shaping up to be a repeat of 2022

"Every day that passes, LaRose makes it clearer that he doesn't believe the rules apply to him," an Ohio Democratic Party release said Tuesday.

The Ohio Democratic Party was very busy Tuesday. That was the day they posted the Santos video message to Moreno on X.

 "Hey! I just wanted to stop by and say thank you to Bernie Moreno from Ohio for when I ran for U.S. Congress in 2022 for maxing out to my campaign," Santos says in the video, made right after his expulsion from the House.

 "Unfortunately, you know, it ended, it's over, but I want to say thank you very much for that donation and for all the support. And I hope in the future I can come back and be part of the game again. Bye!"

It's something the Moreno campaign apparently doesn't want to talk about. A request for comment from the Moreno campaign has gone unanswered.

Mark R. Weaver, a long-time Republican political strategist in Ohio, said he doesn't believe the "inside baseball" of the Santos donation or personal finance reports are going to matter to voters in the end.

"I'm aware of the performative value of candidates bringing up these things," Weaver said. "This is what you get in a contested primary. The candidates are always finding ways to roll marbles under the feet of their opponents."

The national Democratic party, and all of its allies, will pour unprecedented amounts of money into saving Brown, Weaver said.

"It could be the race that determines control of the Senate," said Weaver, who think a record-breaking amount of money — perhaps $250 million — will be spent by both sides.

Weaver said he believes any of them — Dolan, Moreno and LaRose — can beat Brown head-to-head next year.

ANALYSIS: Can an anti-abortion rights Republican win a Senate race in Ohio?

"Sherrod Brown has never had this kind of situation in a race before — a bad environment for Democrats in Ohio and a strong opponent," Weaver said.

Maybe so. But, last month, an Emerson College/WJW Fox 8 poll had Brown with leads over all three — three percentage points over Dolan, five points over LaRose and 10 points over Moreno.

That's a snapshot of where things stand now. There won't be a real opponent until after the March 19 Ohio primary election. And a lot can change between now and next November.

One thing is certain, though: the nastier the fight for the GOP nomination, the happier Ohio Democrats will be with the outcome.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.