The race for Cincinnati’s school board is supposed to be non-partisan. But that hasn’t stopped area Democrats from endorsing candidates or some Republicans from spending money on the race.

There are nine candidates running for four seats on the school board this year.  The list includes Melanie Bates, Ericka Copeland-Dansby, Marcia Futel, Daniel Minera, Victoria Straughn, Martha Good, Elisa Hoffman, Sally O’Callaghan and Betsy Shank.   The Enquirer has profiles of each of the candidates, with links to their websites, available here.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party has endorsed four of the candidates: Bates, Futel, Shank and Minera.  Other candidates including Copeland-Dansby, Good, Hoffman and  O’Callaghan  have received support or endorsements from progressive groups like Equality Cincinnati and the Green Party of Southwest Ohio.

The Hamilton County Republican Party has not officially endorsed any of the candidates however a group with Republican ties named the Brighter Future Fund has raised nearly eighty thousand dollars from traditionally Republican donors in the Cincinnati area.  It is now spending the bulk of that money on television ads for two of the candidates,  and on small campaign contributions  for some others.

According to FCC filings, the group appears to be organized and operated by Kathryn T. Metz, a former campaign and congressional office staffer for Republican Congressman Steve Chabot. According to Ohio Secretary of State records, Metz also appears to have been a fundraiser for Republican Mike Wilson, the founder of the Cincinnati Tea Party who twice ran unsuccessfully against State Rep Connie Pillich.

Campaign finance reports for the Bright Future Fund list Metz as the group’s treasurer. The address associated with the fund, 632 Vine Street in Cincinnati, is also the address of Metz’s employer, the Fountain Square Group, a political consulting and fundraising company. Metz is the company’s director of fundraising.

Campaign finance reports for the Bright Future Fund show it received $78,850 in contributions from 57 individuals and groups, including some of the biggest Republican donors in Cincinnati.

For example, Robert Castellini, president of Castellini Management Group, gave the Bright Future Fund $3,000. During the last election cycle, Castellini gave Kasich’s campaign over $25,000.

Craig Maier, the CEO of Frisch’s and also a big Kasich donor, gave the group $3,500. And Scott Farmer, CEO of Cintas, gave $6,000 to the group. Two years ago Farmer gave Kasich over $16,000.

Expenditure data on the same campaign finance report shows the Fountain Square Group was paid $2,500 for “Political Consulting”.   Two small contributions of $500 each were made to the campaigns of Bates and Futel.  And two larger contributions of $2,345 and $2,500 were made to the campaigns of Hoffman and Copeland-Dansby.

According to documents filed with the FCC, Metz wrote a check to WCPO in Cincinnati for $17,334.05 on behalf of the Brighter Future fund in order to run television ads supporting the campaigns of Hoffman and Copeland-Dansby on the days leading up to the election.

It’s unclear why Republican operatives are using Republican dollars to run ads supporting Democrats running in a race against other Democrats.   But as one long-time participant in Cincinnati politics told me “the whole election has been weird”.

It’s hard not to agree.