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Cuyahoga County executive candidate war chests approach half a million dollars

The race for Cuyahoga County executive is on the verge of becoming a million-dollar contest.
Nick Castele
Ideastream Public Media
The race for Cuyahoga County executive is on the verge of becoming a million-dollar contest.

Two candidates for Cuyahoga County executive are each beginning their election year with more than $400,000 on hand in what will likely become a million-dollar race to lead county government.

Republican candidate Lee Weingart is beginning the year with $448,339 in his campaign coffers. Chris Ronayne, who won the county Democratic Party’s endorsement last week, reported $405,130 on hand.

The unaudited disclosures with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections cover fundraising and spending in the latter half of 2021. Former state Sen. Shirley Smith did not file, according to the board. Tariq Shabazz, who opened a campaign committee this year, was not required to file.

Ronayne brought in $332,562 over the last six months, while Weingart raised about $268,000. Unlike the Cleveland mayoral race, there are no contribution limits for county executive candidates.

Weingart, who leads the lobbying firm LNE Group, wrote his campaign committee a $13,000 check in December of last year. He also received $20,000 from industrialist and GOP fundraiser Ed Crawford.

The Republican also reported a $10,000 contribution from Minute Men Staffing owner Jason Lucarelli and $5,000 from restaurateur Tony George.

Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam contributed to both candidates, but gave Ronayne the edge. Weingart received $5,000 from the pair, while the Haslams gave $10,000 to Ronayne.

Ronayne, the former head of University Circle Inc., reported more donors than Weingart, ranging from double-digit donations to several thousand dollars. The Democrat received $15,000 from Mitchell Schneider, the president of First Interstate Properties and the chair of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s board of trustees.

Also among Ronayne’s contributions: $5,000 from real estate developer Wesley Finch; $5,000 from Karen Paganini, the president of K&D Group and chair of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance; $2,900 from Sherwin-Williams executive chairman Christopher Connor and $2,500 from Morton Q. Levin, the founder of the Levin Group real estate firm.

Weingart, a former county commissioner, has said that he hopes to raise $2 million in his quest to win election in this predominantly Democratic county.

The county executive candidates will be competing for airtime and voters’ attention this year with Senate and gubernatorial hopefuls. A partisan primary is scheduled for May 3. The general election will be held in November.

Copyright 2022 WCPN. To see more, visit WCPN.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.