The Davis-Besse nuclear power plant outside Toledo is one of the two nuclear plants that will be propped up by House Bill 6. (Peggy Turbett/The Plain Dealer, File, 2012)
COLUMBUS, Ohio — They’ve already hit Ohio’s airwaves and mailboxes. Now, the political defenders of a new Ohio law propping up two Ohio nuclear plants are hitting the streets.
Generation Now, a pro-House Bill 6 political group, has hired on-the-ground workers to try to prevent voters from signing petitions from a different group seeking to place an HB6 repeal on the November 2020 ballot.
Political professionals generally refer to this category of campaign workers as “blockers,” who are tasked with interfering with the signature collection process. But Generation Now spokesman Curt Steiner called them “educators.”
“They’re going to be going to places where there’s a likelihood that there will be activity to gather signatures,” Steiner said. “They’ve also been asked, where they see people, to be polite, give them information and don’t interfere with anyone trying to sign a petition.”
Gene Pierce, a spokesman for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the group collecting the signatures, said the blockers’ early tactics have been aggressive.
“Nobody wants to step into a tense situation,” he said. “So if someone’s coming out of a library and there’s a heated conversation, or someone’s acting aggressive toward another person, the natural inclination is to walk away.”
“We are still getting our signatures our numbers are going up, but this is coming close to the edge of intimidating and harassment,” he said.
The blockers are being recruited, trained and organized by FieldWorks, a Washington, D.C. firm that specializes in both sides of ballot issues — the collection of petition signatures and what the firm calls “defensive strategies” to prevent them.
“What we know is that the petitioners will be out there telling people all sorts of things trying to get them to sign petitions,” Steiner said. “They’ll say anything because it’s a bounty hunt. And we’re trying to make sure people understand that there’s more than one side to the story.”
The deployment of blockers marks a tactical escalation by the deep-pocketed backers of HB6, signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in July. A group calling itself Ohioans for Energy Security last month aired more than $2 million in hyperbolic TV ads trying to discourage voters from signing the petitions, and recently has sent out political mailers to an unknown number of Ohio voters doing the same.
Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts has been gathering signatures since Aug. 30, when state officials certified an initial batch of signatures required to get the process started. They now have until Oct. 21 to gather the roughly 266,000 valid signatures from registered Ohio voters needed to place the measure on the 2020 ballot
HB6 rescues the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo and Perry plant northeast of Cleveland. It also subsidizes two coal plants owned by Ohio utility companies — one in Indiana, the other in Ohio.
Supporters of the measure include labor unions, nuclear power advocates, and local officials from areas near the nuclear plants; critics include environmental groups, the fossil-fuel industry, renewable energy companies, and some small-government activists.
Andrew J. Tobias, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 10, 2019
Ohio nuclear bailout defenders deploy ground troops to thwart repeal effort’s signature collection