Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald on Monday took another step toward running for governor next year, forming an exploratory committee and the structure needed to start raising money.
The committee formation and FitzGerald’s scheduled speaking engagements — 25 county party dinners over the next several months — indicate that he is aggressively seeking the Ohio Democratic Party’s nomination to run against incumbent Gov. John Kasich, a Republican in his first term in office.
FitzGerald’s campaign team includes two Ohio veteran politicos: Aaron Pickrell and Sarah Slavik. Pickrell served as an advisor to President Barack Obama’s campaigns in Ohio in 2012 and 2008 and as campaign manager for Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in 2006 and 2010. Slavik has worked as a fundraiser for the Ohio House Democratic Caucus and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.
FitzGerald is well known in the Cleveland area as the county executive, former Lakewood mayor and a former FBI special agent, but his name identification statewide is weak, according to recent polling.
A survey released last month by Quinnipiac University shows Kasich holds a 10-point lead over FitzGerald and would beat other potential Democratic challengers if the election were held today. The poll found Kasich leads:
45 - 35 percent over FitzGerald;
44 - 38 percent over U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director and former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray;
44 - 36 percent over U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan;
45 - 38 percent over former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton.
Kasich’s most recent campaign finance report shows he has $2.13 million in his war chest but political observers agree that tens of millions of dollars will be raised and spent by both sides in an effort to win the Ohio governor’s job.