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Fitzgerald Downplays Fundraising Expectations For Governor’s Race

With two weeks left until his next campaign finance report is due, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is downplaying expectations on fundraising.

With two weeks left until his next campaign finance report is due, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is downplaying expectations on fundraising.  That's despite questions about whether his campaign is raising the necessary funds to be competitive against Gov. John Kasich next year.

"Let's put it this way, the governor at that point in his election cycle, a year and a half before the election in 2009, was at about $500,000," said FitzGerald.  "That, to me, ought to be roughly what the barometer is going to be."

At this point in 2009, Kasich had only raised a half million dollars.  But the advantage he had over FitzGerald is that he could draw from the vast resources he had developed over years spent in Congress, on Wall Street, and on FOX News which increased his name identification across the state.

"These are high spending campaigns in Ohio," said Paul Beck, political science professor at The Ohio State University.  "It certainly doesn't help FitzGerald going forward.  If there was a million dollars there, it would show momentum."

Campaign finance reports show FitzGerald only raised $234,000 in the second half of last year.  

"It sounds alarms all over the place," said Sam Gresham from Ohio Common Cause and former president of the Columbus Urban League.  "I don't know whether people will run away or are they going to run towards him and give him more money.  I think as a candidate, he's building.  He doesn't have statewide recognition, but he's only 10 points down."

A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Kasich leading FitzGerald 47 percent to 33 percent.

"The big problem is if he can't raise money, if he reports he's only raised a half million dollars, how does he compete with the governor because he's got to raise his name ID," said Republican strategist Terry Casey.  "The Kasich people are smart, they saw what Obama did to Romney, define your opponent before he can define himself."

In 2010, the gubernatorial election set records for campaign fundraising.  Gov. Ted Strickland raised $19.8 million, and Kasich raised $18.3 million.

Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray was hovering as a potential Democratic candidate for governor.  This week, he was confirmed by the senate to serve as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington.

“I think Democrats are going to unite behind Ed FitzGerald, I think the whole possibility of Rich Cordray kept that from happening,” said former Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Leland.  “Now that Rich is solidly in his position in Washington, DC, I think Columbus Democrats and other people across the state will rally behind him.”

FitzGerald says his campaign is energized now that he can unite the Democratic Party.

"It's going well, there's a lot of interest in this race" said FitzGerald.  "To be presumed to be the nominee 16 months before the election is a good place for any Democratic candidate, or any challenger, to be really."

Beck says FitzGerald still has plenty of time to convince Ohioans he’s a serious candidate, but the next quarter could be critical.

"If he doesn't pick up momentum by the end of the year he's in big trouble," said Beck.   "The field is clear, so anyone who said 'let's wait a little bit' can now help him.  I think that the outcome will be determined by what voters think of Kasich, but FitzGerald needs to establish himself as a credible alternative."