The day reporters and political pundits have waited for with baited breath to arrive, arrived Wednesday, when Ohio political candidates filed their first report of the year on campaign fundraising.
In the traditional view of media that politics is best covered when it’s covered as a sport, what’s a sport without statistics? And what better statistic to dangle than money—who has it, who doesn’t, who can get more, who can’t?
All eyes were therefore focused on what the campaigns of Gov. Kasich and Ed FitzGerald report today.
Campaign Kasich reported $4.4 million on hand and $2.6 million raised during the first six months of the year. For Kasich, its his election to lose. When Democrats were asked how they would defeat the governor, responses, when they came, said he would beat himself by getting his hand caught in the cookie jar. For Kasich to appear vulnerable this far out from an election he’s widely expected to win, only helps FitzGerald, who has to show the Wizard of Westerville has a glass jaw. And he’s just the Rocky Balboa to take on Ohio’s Apollo Creed.
FitzGerald, a former FBI agent on the Organized Crime Task Force, assistant prosecutor, Lakewood mayor, and county executive, delivered an amount Ohio’s media and pundit class had largely predicted, an amount his team can crow about 16 months before voters will decided next November whether to re-hire Republican Gov. John R. Kasich or make him a one-term governor.
The headline from Team FitzGerald today was that he outraised the numbers Team Kasich posted in John Kasich’s first campaign finance filing in 2009. Citizen Kasich went on to beat Democratic incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland in 2010, with the help of Tea Party activists and their anger over President Obama and his programs, especially his stimulus spending and the passage of Obamacare [ACA] in Congress without a single Republican vote.
Kasich won, but by a slim 2 percentage points or about 77,000 votes statewide, in a low turnout election of only 49 percent of registered voters. For FitzGerald to pull a surprising upset next years, since capital square pundits and reporters have given book that Gov. Kasich is the odds on favorite to win a second term.
In an email to reporters late Wednesday afternoon, the Ed FitzGerald for Governor campaign announced that it has raised $600,494.37 to elect Ed FitzGerald, and has $543,541.17 cash on hand. A big part of that was a $119,500 contribution from the Ohio Democratic Party.
FitzGerald has brought $181,000 over from his since-ended county executive campaign fund. He spent $239,000 and has banked $543,541.
In a prepared statement from FitzGerald’s recently hired campaign manager, Nick Buis, said, “We’re grateful for the strong support we’ve received from people all over the state who want to see Ed FitzGerald become Governor of Ohio.”
Buis, who managed the campaign to turn Florida Obama blue last year, noted that nearly 95 percent of contributions came from Ohioans who live here and are deeply concerned about the direction of this state under John Kasich. “People in every corner of the Ohio are excited about Ed, and this report shows the real grassroots momentum that our campaign has right now. This is only just the beginning.”
FitzGerald, who is little known outside his home turf in Cuyahoga County, which also happens to be Ohio’s most populous county, announced his run for governor on April 27, 2013. He has raised $600,494.37 and has $537,000 cash on hand, Team FitzGerald said.
By comparison, Buis said, “after spending 18 years in Congress, working on Wall Street, and running for President of the United States, John Kasich reported $516,000 raised at this point during the 2009 filing period.”
While Team FitzGerald can be happy about today’s campaign numbers, few Statehouse watchers outside Team FitzGerald believe he has anything but an uphill climb to beat Kasich at the polls next year.
In office about 30 months now, Gov. Kasich is performance politician whose penchant for public relations is not to be underestimated. When Kasich signed the state’s new two-year $62 billion budget, the highest in state history, he took no questions from reporters.
When Gov. Kasich put on a show recently that involved depositing hundreds of millions in to Ohio’s rainy day emergency fund, he hit a button on a computer to make the deposit, the exited without taking questions from reporters.
When Gov. Kasich opened the 160th Ohio State Fair last week, he led an entourage through the fairgrounds, but didn’t take questions from a gaggle of follow reporters. Later that same day, Kasich, now 61 years old, dashed off to Colorado for a GOP governor’s meet-up, where he might have linked up with big GOP donors, including David and Charles Koch, whose vast billions fund Tea Party groups of various sorts who are out to cripple President Obama and his programs, especially Obamacare.
FitzGerald the prosecutor may find favorable winds blowing his way if he wants to take on Gov. Kasich as a corruption enabler. If reports alleging two thirds of the board members of JobsOhio, Kasich privatized jobs development nonprofit, have direct financial ties to companies receiving grants and tax incentives from JobsOhio, a conflict of interest that had Ted Strickland been behind them Team Kasich would hammer on relentlessly, FitzGerald may see this as a chance to pull the curtain on Kasich, whose public track record has been in plain sight since he became an elected official in 1978.
When he was last in Columbus, appearing at the Ohio Democratic Party’s headquarters, CGE asked FitzGerald directly if he thought there were grounds on which to determine that Kasich or anyone else in his administration was guilty of corruption? FitzGerald responded, “Yes. Because in my opinion the creation of JobsOhio is basically a slush fund that is unaccountable, where donors to the Republican Party or anonymous donors to JobsOhio itself can then get benefits from JobsOhio or other state programs is per se a corrupt practice,”
If FitzGerald can make his case to Republicans in rural counties, where Kasich won big in 2010, that Gov. Kasich is taking them for a ride, the Cleveland Democrat might either pull voters from Kasich’s base or give them pause in voting a second time for Kasich.
As Team FitzGerald said at the end of its email notice today, “From serving as an FBI agent on the Organized Crime Task Force, assistant prosecutor, Lakewood mayor, and county executive, Ed FitzGerald has brought down corrupt public officials, cleaned up government and fought to make government work for the middle class.”
While Team Kasich may think a second term is inevitable, given the power vested in an incumbent governor who can make funding announcements everyday and thereby dominate headlines and TV broadcasts, thinking they can beat the hardly known 45-year old from Cleveland with little effort is tantamount to whistling past the graveyard.
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