Ohio Democrats turn focus away from governor race

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – With their prospects of winning the governorship damaged, Ohio Democrats are shifting resources away from the top of the ticket into a coordinated victory campaign focused on getting out the vote.

Embattled gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, said Friday that he plans to make a “significant investment” in the party’s field and voter turnout program. The exact amount he’ll move out of his $2.4 million campaign fund wasn’t provided.

“With early vote approaching, this strategic shift in resources will allow us to focus on turning out the sporadic Democratic voters who have made the difference in past elections,” campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said in an email.

The decision follows a series of blows to FitzGerald’s campaign to defeat Republican Gov. John Kasich, including revelations that FitzGerald lacked a permanent driver’s license for over a decade. The issue was brought to light by 2012 police records that showed him in parking lot at 4:30 a.m. with a woman who isn’t his wife.

His campaign manager and communications director left the campaign earlier this week, and two consultants – Aaron Pickrell and Louis Capabianco – are also gone.

Hitt had earlier suggested more departures, including her own, might have been in the offing.

In a Friday email titled, “Sorry, I’m Staying,” she said she and the rest of FitzGerald’s senior staff and consulting team will stay in place.

“We have every intention of continuing to wage a competitive, vocal campaign against Governor Kasich and his record in Ohio,” she said.

Kasich has stayed mum on his Democratic challenger’s recent campaign problems. He told reporters Tuesday during a campaign stop in Cincinnati that he pays no attention to the other side.

Even before FitzGerald’s recent troubles, his lack of name recognition around the state and fundraising disadvantage to Kasich’s hefty $11.4 million war chest made his prospects of winning slim.

The party now views Democratic state Reps. John Patrick Carney and Connie Pillich as its best prospects of winning one of Ohio’s statewide offices, now held exclusively by Republicans. Carney faces Republican Auditor Dave Yost, and Pillich faces Treasurer Josh Mandel. Both Democrats outraised their GOP rivals last period.

Hitt declined to say how much FitzGerald plans to invest in the coordinated campaign, but she said such get-out-the-vote efforts will help all candidates, including FitzGerald and running mate Sharen Neuhardt.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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