In just six weeks, Ohio voters head to the polls to pick their party’s nominees, and the U.S. Senate race is one of the most hotly contested of the March 19 primary election. Last week, the candidates turned in their year-end campaign finance reports.
The three Republicans running to challenge Democratic Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown brought in hundreds of thousands from donors and bolstered their balance sheets with big personal loans. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, in particular, has also gotten help from outside groups.
They’ve needed all the help they can get—the GOP campaigns report spending three or four times what they brought in on political ads.
Meanwhile, the $6.6 million Brown raised in the most recent reporting period is more than triple what his challengers raised combined.
In a news statement, Brown’s campaign highlighted the $14.6 million in cash on hand at the end of the quarter. Brown’s total gains about $1 million in transfers from other committees, but he still raised much more than $5 million from individuals.
The majority of that comes from relatively tiny donations made through ActBlue. The left-leaning fundraising platform contributed more than $3.8 million to Brown’s total, with an average donation of almost $122.
He reports contributions from a variety of trade organisations, including bricklayers and steelworkers, and, as chair of the Senate Banking Committee, financial institutions are highly represented. In addition to Ohio’s Huntington Bank, Brown reported contributions from credit unions, Visa, and the FICO credit scoring business, among others.
Brown’s campaign spent $3.1 million in the final quarter and had no outstanding loans. While he has the most cash on hand, Republican superPACs spent nearly twice as much in 2022 to help elect Republican Ohio U.S. Senator J.D. Vance.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose reported raising about $813,000 for his Senate campaign. That is somewhat more than entrepreneur Bernie Moreno and far ahead of state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls.
“Frank LaRose is continuing to demonstrate he’s the man to beat,” campaign spokesman Ben Kindel stated in a press release.
LaRose’s issue is having cash on hand. Despite outraising his opponents in the most recent quarter, he trails them both in cash since Moreno and Dolan have large personal fortunes to tap. LaRose, like them, has made a campaign loan. While LaRose has put up a quarter million dollars, his opponents have spent more than ten times that amount.
LaRose’s campaign has received support from a superPAC called the Leadership for Ohio Fund. According to separate FEC records, the organisation has already spent over $3 million on television advertisements.
The organisation was founded in early 2023 and has raised millions of dollars to support LaRose. Cleveland.com reports that a significant portion of the cash originates from Richard Uihlein, a conservative billionaire who supported an unsuccessful campaign in August 2023 to make amending Ohio’s constitution more difficult. An FEC complaint has been filed regarding the group’s alleged connections to a non-existent LaRose organisation.
Bernie Moreno, a Cleveland-area entrepreneur, has never held public office, but he has Donald Trump’s endorsement.
Moreno’s campaign could not quite match LaRose’s fundraising totals, but at almost $800,000, he is not far behind. Moreno reported contributions of $760,000 from individuals, as well as Turning Point, the Ohio Coal Association, and the Ohio Auto Dealer Alliance. Moreno advanced his profession by owning and operating a number of vehicle businesses.
Although his own campaign committee paid for the majority of his advertising, Buckeye Values PAC, an outside organization, paid for a billboard promoting Moreno’s campaign. Overall, he reported approximately $3 million in broadcast and digital advertising.
Moreno enters the primary fight with little more than $2 million, thanks in part to a $3 million loan he made to his campaign.
None of the Republican contenders’ fundraising totals are particularly impressive, but Dolan’s year-end report, at around $360,000, is leaner than others. For reference, he raised more than that as a state senator before the 2020 general election.
Dolan, on the other hand, leads the Republican race in terms of campaign funds, having received $7 million in personal loans. He has approximately $4.85 million to work with.
The superPAC Buckeye Leadership Fund also supports Dolan’s campaign. The organisation only reports a few donations, including $100,000 from the chairman of New Balance and $1 million each from Dolan’s parents.
The Super PAC has yet to begin spending on political commercials. So far, the most expensive expense has been for survey research. Dolan’s campaign reported spending about $1.65 million on television commercials, which is more than four times what he raised.