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

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) in Florida in 2019
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) speaks during a news conference in Homestead, Fla., Monday, July 15, 2019. [Lynne Sladky / AP]

Updated: 10:08 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021

The money is pouring in to Ohio’s open U.S. Senate race to replace Republican Rob Portman. So far, the leading Democrat is 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 entering the race in July, Republican venture capitalist and author JD Vance has the smallest cash on hand total of all the major candidates. He's reporting around $846,000, 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, as did three other Republicans. Former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken loaned $1 million; 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 campaign 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."

In that kind of situation, Ryan continued, "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 so far.

Columbus community organizer Morgan Harper, raised around half a million dollars. 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 until the end of the year.

The winners of the party primaries are expected to compete in one of the most expensive U.S. Senate campaigns in 2022, and what could be one of the costliest in Ohio history.

An earlier version of this story reported Josh Mandel had the highest fundraising total among GOP candidates. JD Vance, in fact, raised more.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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