Ohio Democrat Aftab Pureval is gaining some national attention in his bid to replace 11-term Republican Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH-01), but Pureval’s campaign has been dogged by election law violations ever since he officially declared his candidacy.
The 35-year-old Democratic wonder-kid went unchallenged in May’s primary, and is hoping to shock the nation by unseating Chabot, who has rarely faced any serious challenger since taking office.
Being new to politics, the former clerk of courts and Proctor & Gamble attorney has made multiple “amateur errors,” including the cross-use of campaign funds. According to an August 2 report from The Cincinnati Enquirer, campaign finance reports revealed that Pureval used his clerk of courts account to cover expenses for his congressional campaign.
The report shows that Pureval drew $30,000 out of his clerk of courts campaign account, even though he won’t need to seek reelection for his current position for another two years.
“This is an amateur, unforced error. I don’t know if it’s going to be an issue, but you never want to give the other side a freebie,” University of Cincinnati Professor David Niven told The Enquirer.
In addition, Pureval is now facing a lawsuit from one of his former employees, Brittney Heitman, who alleges that she was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement after her termination from the Clerk of Courts Office. However, the lawsuit claims that Pureval broke that agreement by making disparaging comments about Heitman in public appearances.
“He used tax dollars to silence his critics. And then he also promised not to disparage them, but then he did. He accused them of nepotism and patronage and our particular client was neither of those,” Chris Finney, Heitman’s lawyer, said of the lawsuit.
On day one of his campaign, questions were raised about where Pureval actually lives, since it appeared that he owned a house outside of the district in which he was seeking election. While living inside the district isn’t a requirement, Chabot’s campaign accused Pureval of lying “about something as basic as where he lives.”
“His website claims he lives Downtown, but in reality he lives in a $400,000 mansion in Hyde Park, which isn’t even in the district. Perhaps he needs an escort to show him around town,” Chabot spokesman Cody Rizzuto said.
In terms of policy, Pureval’s campaign has repeatedly attempted to steer the conversation away from abortion after it was discovered that Martin Haskell, a well-known pro-choice advocate who performed partial-birth abortions, donated the maximum contribution of $2,700 to Pureval’s campaign.
“Aftab has brought this issue to the forefront in this campaign by choosing to side with the biggest proponent of the most disgusting and inhumane procedure in our nation’s history—partial-birth abortion,” Rizzuto stated, noting that his candidate sponsored the 2003 bill to ban such procedures.
Although Pureval’s campaign claims it is more focused on the “key issues” in the race, such as “creating jobs” and “investing in infrastructure,” Pureval himself has repeatedly praised former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards.
“Great to meet a personal hero of mine, Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood, who does so much to empower women and girls,” Pureval wrote in a December Facebook post.
When Richards announced her retirement, Pureval expressed his thanks for her service on Twitter.
“Thank you Cecile Richards for being a champion for women and girls and for standing up for the rights of others. You’ll be a hard act to follow,” he wrote.
Pureval later explained that he believes “that it’s not the government’s place to stand in the way of a doctor and a woman when she’s making health care decisions,” prompting Chabot’s campaign to call him “the most pro-abortion candidate to ever run for this seat.”
“With no knowledge or understanding of the people in the district, Aftab mistakenly thinks he can sell Nancy Pelosi’s liberal agenda to the voters, but they won’t buy it,” Chabot’s campaign said.
Ohio’s First Congressional District went to Trump by eight points in the 2016 Election.