Sen. Eric Kearney has stepped down as the Democratic candidate for Ohio Lt. Governor.
Kearney has be embroiled in a tax scandal since soon after being named as the Lt. Governor candidate.
“I have discussed this with Ed FitzGerald, and while I will always be grateful for him selecting me to be his running mate, we agree that the best course of action is for me to step aside from the campaign for Lieutenant Governor and focus on serving the people of the Ninth Senate district," Kearney said in a statement.
Kearney's business owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes to the state and federal governments totaling over $800,000.
Ed FitzGerald said this about the decision:
“Eric and I agree about the challenges facing Ohio, and about how important it is for the state to change direction in the next election. Because that is our primary concern, we agreed that it is best for Sen. Kearney to step down from the ticket. Ultimately, the discussion of the crucial issues facing Ohio was in danger of being drowned out, making this decision difficult but necessary.”
10TV has learned the two Democrats on FitzGerald's list from central Ohio are House Minority Leader Tracy Heard and Columbus City Councilman Zach Klein.
Heard, who is African American, is said to have the edge as FitzGerald attempts to solidify his Democratic base.
A critical campaign fundraising report is due in January. Some Democrats are concerned that the Kearney controversy could be hampering FitzGerald's ability to raise money.
Ohio Republicans were quick to respond to news of Kearney’s exit.
"By failing to fully vet him, FitzGerald put his running mate in an impossible situation for weeks before finally abandoning him in an attempt to save his own campaign,” said Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf. “We still don't know how FitzGerald allowed this to happen, but we know the entire time nothing Ed Fitzgerald or the Ohio Democrats have said has been true. If anyone should leave this race, it's Fitzgerald who is clearly not prepared for statewide office."