The major party candidates for governor have filed their campaign finance reports for the last six months of 2013. And as Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, there is dispute over what the numbers show about the campaigns as they head into this election year.
The Kasich campaign put out the news early on the filing deadline day -- and it’s easy to see why. The incumbent governor raised nearly $4.5 million dollars in the last six months of last year, and now has nearly $8 million dollars in the bank going into his re-election campaign.
Ed FitzGerald released his reports right at the deadline. The Democratic Cuyahoga County executive raised more than $1.6 million, and has more $1.4 million on hand. That means Kasich is leading FitzGerald in the money race by more than five-to-one.
But this was no surprise to Rep. Chris Redfern. It’s almost certain that he, as chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, would know where his leading candidate stands in terms of fundraising. And he suggested as much during a panel at the Ohio Associated Press’ legislative preview on Thursday.
“Will we raise more than John Kasich? Absolutely not," Redfern said. "Ed FitzGerald does not golf, and he certainly doesn’t golf with the CEO of Bob Evans. Ed FitzGerald does not golf, and he certainly doesn’t golf with Mark Kvamme. Ed FitzGerald does not golf, and he certainly does not golf with the CEOs of other well-heeled corporations that have received tens of millions of dollars from public wallets without any transparency to suggest that that investment is wise.”
At that same panel, Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges said it’s a tribute to the team that Kasich put together for his first race as a candidate for governor.
“In 2010, when John Kasich was challenging an incumbent governor -- as everybody here knows how difficult it is to beat an incumbent governor in Ohio, it hasn’t happened very often over the course of the last hundred years or so – he put together an excellent campaign and started working hard, and filed at his year-end report with $4 million in the bank," Borges said.
Kasich has nearly double in his campaign coffers now what he had in that first campaign – and incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland had more than $6.2 million on hand at that point.
But Redfern said there’s no guarantee that more money will bring a victory.
“We were outspent with Josh Mandel," Redfern said. "I think it was 3-to-1 when you looked at the corporate resources that went Josh’s way, and we were still successful. The president was outspent in Ohio as well, and we were successful. We know we will be outspent by John Kasich.”
And though Redfern says he’s confident in his team, he also said Kasich is clearly raising so much money because he’s planning a run for president at some point – though most political watchers agree Kasich would have to win a second term to be a viable candidate for the presidency.
Borges said he’s never talked to the governor about that, and that the Ohio Republican Party is only focused on the races on the November ballot. But he suggested that Democrats might not be ready for the fall.
“Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t," Borges said. "And maybe they’ll have to be facing a primary where they will be spending a lot of that money, and maybe they will not.”
There’s still no word from Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who has said he is considering challenging FitzGerald for the Democratic nomination, but also says he’s having trouble finding someone to run with him as lieutenant governor.
There won’t be a Republican primary for governor, now that Tea Party activists have said they haven’t been able to find a team to run against Kasich.
But Tea Party organizer Tom Zawistowski says that doesn’t mean Republicans will be able to escape spending money on the primary ballot. He says Tea Party candidates will be in 19 House races and as many as seven Senate races, and there will be several running for the Republican Party’s state central committee.
“I think we’re going to have close to 50 people with their name on the ballot that they didn’t pick," Zawistowski said. "And they’re not going to be happy about that. And yes -- those people will be totally outmatched, and they will spend millions of dollars to defeat them, and they will attack them personally. But you gotta fight back.”
Among the 10 major party candidates for the five statewide executive offices, Republicans outraised Democrats in the races for secretary of state and treasurer. But the Democratic challengers for attorney general and auditor outpaced the incumbent Republicans, though the Republicans still have more cash on hand.