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Democrat now leads the pack in fundraising for Ohio's open U.S. Senate seat

Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
The Ohio Statehouse on the night of the last primary for statewide officeholders, May 7, 2018

Money is coming to the Republican candidates from several sources, including sometimes from personal loans.

The money is pouring into Ohio’s open US Senate race to replace Republican Rob Portman, with the leading Democrat outraising any of the top Republican candidates.

And millions more are likely coming with the primaries still seven months away.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH 13) brought in nearly $2.5 million, overwhelmingly from individual contributions. Republican venture capitalist and author JD Vance was the closest runner up with $1.7 million, and Republican former state treasurer Josh Mandel was third with $1.1 million.

Several candidates are raising big money through joint fundraising committees.

“While not getting around contribution limits, joint fundraising committees are a great way for candidates to increase their overall fundraising," said Paul Seamus Ryan, the national vice president for policy and litigation for the watchdog group Common Cause.

But he said it's hard to know whether those joint fundraising committees are helping the candidates raise money from just from a few wealthy donors.

"I don't think it's safe to assume that. I think you have to look at the data and all this data is publicly accessible," Ryan said. "Unfortunately, not in real time. There's a little bit of a lag between when they can raise money and when the public gets to know about it in detail.

In his first campaign finance filing since he entered the race in July, Vance has the smallest cash on hand total of all the major candidates. He's reporting around $846,000 in total, but Vance also has a super PAC with $10 million from tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel.

The rest of the major candidates are reporting far more total cash:

  • Mandel: $5.85 million on hand
  • Ryan: $3.6 million on hand
  • Jane Timken: $3.1 million on hand
  • Bernie Moreno: $4.74 million on hand
  • Mike Gibbons: $4.2 million on hand

Vance also loaned his campaign $100,000. And three other Republicans did too. Former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken loaned a million dollars, Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons $2.25 million and Cleveland tech and auto businessman Bernie Moreno $3 million.
Paul Seamus Ryan with Common Cause admits he's concerned about that, saying the ability to use personal loans to campaigns is a First Amendment right, but it gives an advantage to wealthy candidates.

And he said he's worried about another possible scenario: "When a candidate, rather than simply spending their own money, they lend money to their campaign, they win, and then after the election day, they have lobbyists lined up outside their office door making contributions."

Ryan continued that in that kind of situation, "those contributions end up in their pockets in the form of a loan repayment routed through their campaign committee. So post-election fundraising to repay candidate loans is troubling."

Two candidates are fairly new to the race, and only one has reported yet.

Tim Ryan’s Democratic opponent, Columbus community organizer Morgan Harper, raised around half a million. She entered the Democratic primary in August.

Republican state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) just joined the race last month and won’t report till the end of the year.

It's expected the winners of the party primaries will compete in one of the most expensive US Senate campaigns in 2022, and what could be one of the costliest in Ohio history.

(Note: This story was updated to reflect that Vance raised $1.7 million.)

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at