- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Democrat Ed FitzGerald can now begin the 2014 gubernatorial campaign in earnest, with the pesky primary season behind them.

The Kasich-FitzGerald matchup is expected to be among the nation’s most closely watched, with some $10 million in combined fundraising - mostly by Kasich - already reported.

FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, easily defeated Larry Ellis Ealy for the party nomination on Tuesday. Ealy had hatched his plan to run for office from a jail cell, hoping to tackle oppression of minorities, legalizing marijuana and educating and housing the homeless.

With the primary behind them, FitzGerald and Democrats can turn their attention to November.

FitzGerald, 45, said his campaign will focus on restoring a feeling of confidence to the middle class.

“Ohio is being run by an administration that is dedicated to serving a small, privileged group of people, and ordinary Ohioans have been left out and stuck with the bill,” he told supporters gathered Tuesday.

Kasich, 61, a former congressman, investment banker and Fox News commentator, plans to keep the focus on his economic record.

His campaign began airing biographical TV ads on April 15 that emphasize Kasich’s blue-collar roots and dedication to creating an economic climate conducive to job growth.

The state unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent in March, the lowest rate in six years.

“The governor’s record of creating jobs, balancing budgets and cutting taxes resonates with Ohioans across party lines and we look forward to talking about this strong record all the way to November,” spokeswoman Connie Wehrkamp said Tuesday.

Both men have female running mates.

FitzGerald will be joined by Yellow Springs attorney Sharen Swartz Neuhardt, a former congressional candidate known for her outspoken support for abortion rights.

Kasich is partnering again with Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, a former state auditor and lawmaker from the Akron suburb of Green.

The governor was uncontested Tuesday, but that didn’t mean his road to primary victory was without its bumps. A fellow Republican and a tea party activist both tried but failed to mount successful primary challenges against the first-term governor.

Tuesday also sealed fall faceoffs in Ohio’s other statewide races, in which sitting incumbents, all Republicans, as well as their Democratic challengers were unopposed.

Attorney General Mike DeWine will face Cincinnati lawyer David Pepper, a Democrat; Secretary of State Jon Husted faces Democratic state Sen. Nina Turner, of Cleveland; State Auditor Dave Yost faces Democratic state Rep. John Patrick Carney, of Columbus; and State Treasurer Josh Mandel faces Democratic state Rep. Connie Pillich, of suburban Cincinnati.

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