Republican hopefuls for governor beating Democrats in money race

On the side

The Mahoning County Democratic Party has endorsed a state ballot issue that seeks to reduce prescription drug prices.

“Drug companies have been price gouging Ohioans for too long and Mahoning Valley residents have been particularly hard-hit,” said David Betras, county party chairman. “Sick and suffering people each day in the Valley are making tough choices between cutting their pills in half or cutting their meals in half, and a yes on Issue 2 in November will directly help so many people in our community.”

If approved, Issue 2 would require state agencies to pay no more for prescription drugs than what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays for those drugs. Proponents says it would reduce drug costs for about 4 million Ohioans while opponents say it would have the opposite effect with state residents paying higher drug prices and reduced access to medications.

Looking at recent campaign finance reports, the Republican candidates for governor are raising considerably more money for their May 2018 primary than the Democrats.

The reports are for roughly the first six or seven months of the year and in the Republican race, Secretary of State Jon Husted raised the most from contributors with $2.02 million, followed by Attorney General Mike DeWine with $1.26 million, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor with about $640,000 – and about $77,000 in in-kind contributions – and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci with about $576,000.

However, Renacci, who is personally wealthy, loaned $4 million to his campaign while DeWine, who is the best-known candidate running for governor, gave $1 million to his campaign.

In an email touting the amount of money he raised, Renacci’s campaign wrote that the congressman “sent shock waves through the Ohio governor’s race by announcing that his campaign has brought in over $4,575,000” and “left zero doubt that he’s fully committed to winning this election by contributing another $4 million of his own resources to the campaign.”

Take away his loan and Renacci raised the least of the four Republican candidates running for governor.

However, Renacci sent a huge message that he’s willing to spend a lot of his own money to not only stay financially competitive with Husted and DeWine.

Also, Renacci, who has sharply criticized his Republican opponents as “career politicians,” can essentially self-fund his campaign forcing the others to work that much harder to keep pace with the congressman’s very deep pockets.

While DeWine can’t personally match dollar-for-dollar with Renacci, he did loan $1 million to his campaign. That can either be seen as DeWine being dedicated to his candidacy or he knows he may struggle to match Husted’s contributions and the money Renacci is going to give his campaign.

Joshua Eck, Husted’s campaign spokesman, said: “The momentum and grass-roots support from across Ohio has lined up firmly behind Jon Husted, as evidenced by the fact that other candidates in this race were forced to put in their own money in order to catch up. [The] filings show that while some candidates are their own biggest supporters, Jon Husted has support from Republican leaders and voters.”

DeWine, Husted and Renacci all have more than $4 million in their campaign finance funds while Taylor has about $437,000.

Taylor’s campaign said her fundraising began in late February when she formally opened her campaign account and her figures reflect five months and not the full seven months some other campaigns reported. Her campaign also pointed out that “Taylor’s opponents” – meaning Husted and DeWine – were able to carry over money from previous campaigns while she was not as she didn’t raise money for herself while part of the ticket with Gov. John Kasich.

Taylor raised more than Renacci from individual donors, but will she have the money to be competitive in the Republican primary?

On the Democratic side, only former state Rep. Connie Pillich was able to go over the $500,000 mark in this reporting period meaning the party’s gubernatorial candidates will almost certainly not be able to catch up financially to those seeking the Republican nomination.

Of note is Steve Dettelbach, a Democrat running for attorney general, raised about $631,000 in the latest campaign finance report – more than any of the candidates seeking the party’s nomination for governor.

Pillich raised about $547,000 and exceeded $1 million overall for her gubernatorial bid.

Her campaign sent an email titled: “Connie Pillich crushes opponents in fundraising” with the headline being: “Connie Pillich leaves Democratic competitors in the dust.” The email also noted the fundraising report is the “latest indication that Pillich is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.”

She said in the email: “I’m humbled by the outpouring of support and I’m proud to show that a winning campaign can be built by grass-roots donors from all over the state and not the Columbus or Washington, D.C., special interests.”

Trailing Pillich was Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley with about $455,000, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman with about $342,000, and former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton with $275,049.

Whaley’s amount, though, is deceptive as it’s for her re-election bid for Dayton mayor.

Under state law, she can’t have a governor’s campaign fund while seeking the mayoral position. On top of that, Whaley is prevented by state elections law from giving more than $200,000 from her mayor’s fund to her governor’s fund after the Nov. 7 general election.

Sutton’s amount is probably the most surprising because I, and others, consider her the frontrunner on the Democratic side, but she raised about half of what Pillich received during this filing period.

Regardless of which Democrat emerges from next year’s gubernatorial primary – and there’s still time for Richard Cordray, the former attorney general and state treasurer to get in the race – that person is going to need a lot of assistance from the state Democratic Party structure to raise money.

However, depending on the mood of voters and the campaign, the Democratic nominee may not need to match the Republican dollar-for-dollar to be competitive in the November 2018 general election.

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