- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich heads into the 2014 elections with $7.9 million in the bank, after far outraising his likely Democratic challenger during the second half of 2013.

Campaign finance reports filed Friday showed Kasich raised almost $3.9 million, and received in-kind donations totaling more than $629,000. Democrat Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, raised more than $1.6 million - much of it from his party.

Kasich’s campaign had said it has raised more than $9.1 million since the governor took office in January 2011. Kasich ousted incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in 2010 in one of Ohio’s most expensive races.

Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern predicted the 2014 gubernatorial race would be expensive.

“It’s going to cost a lot of money,” he told reporters Thursday at a legislative preview session for journalists, organized by The Associated Press.

“Will we raise more than John Kasich? Absolutely not,” Redfern said, ticking off big-name contributors of the governor. He noted that Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown survived an onslaught of outside spending - some $30 million - two years ago to hold back a challenge from Republican Josh Mandel, the Ohio treasurer.

At the AP event, Ohio Republican Chairman Matt Borges said Kasich was able to beat an incumbent governor in 2010, adding that he had reported about $4 million on hand at the beginning of that election year.

“That’s a good place to start,” Borges said, questioning whether FitzGerald would have enough money to get into what he called a “competitive” contest.

Republicans currently hold all Ohio statewide elective offices. Democrats vying to unseat those Republicans reported outraising incumbents in two races.

Cincinnati lawyer David Pepper, who had sizeable fundraising numbers in his unsuccessful bid for auditor in 2010, again showed his financial strength on Friday.

The son of a former Procter & Gamble CEO raised more than $848,000 compared with Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine’s $761,000. DeWine still reported about $1 million more in the bank than Pepper.

State Rep. John Patrick Carney, of Columbus, reported raising $326,000, more than the $291,000 raised by the man he’s challenging, state Auditor Dave Yost. It was the second period in a row he’d outraised Yost.

Secretary of State Jon Husted raised $580,000 for the period, compared to $408,000 by his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Nina Turner. Husted has nearly 10 times as much in the bank: $2.1 million to Turner’s $298,000.

Mandel raised nearly $1.2 million for the period, more than any candidate in the cycle besides Kasich. Democratic challenger Connie Pillich, a state legislator from suburban Cincinnati, raised $634,000. Mandel has $2 million on hand to Pillich’s $801,000.

Backers of a ballot measure that would allow gay marriage in Ohio reported about $23,000 in the bank for their statewide campaign. They raised almost $26,000 for the period, and got about $211,000 in in-kind contributions.

Backers of a right-to-work measure have far less for their effort, which seeks a constitutional amendment banning mandatory union membership and prohibiting Ohio unions from charging dues to non-members. They reported raising $315 and having about $166 in the bank.

On the Ohio legislative front, Ohio Senate Republicans, who hold 23 of 33 seats in the chamber, have amassed a campaign war chest of almost $3.6 million, taking in about half that amount in contributions. Democrats, who will be defending seven of their seats, had just $64,000.

The money advantage was just as stark in the Ohio House.

The House GOP reported $3.9 million in the bank to help them hang on to their 60 seats in the 99-member chamber. House Republicans raised about $2.5 million, roughly 12 times that of their Democratic counterparts. The minority had about $173,000 on hand.

The Republican legislative leaders also had money on hand to spend. Senate President Keith Faber of Celina reported about $393,000, while the House Speaker William Batchelder had about $368,000 in the bank.

Former state Democratic chairman David Leland raised more than $200,000 in his bid to fill Carney’s seat in the Ohio House, a seat Leland formerly held. Strickland is serving as honorary chair of Leland’s campaign.

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