The race for Cincinnati mayor in 2017 will likely be the most expensive in city history.
Mayor John Cranley has raised $963,866 so far, and has already begun running radio campaign ads ahead of the May primary. He plans to raise $2.4 to $2.6 million by the November general election.
“It speaks volumes about the support John has and the people who think he is doing a good job running the city,” said Cranley’s campaign manager Jay Kincaid. “I believe this will make it the biggest amount ever raised by a mayoral candidate - by over a million dollars.”
If this holds true, Cranley will smash the fundraising record set by Democratic mayoral candidate David Pepper in 2005. Pepper raised $1.2 million in that race, but despite that impressive total he still lost to fellow Democrat Mark Mallory.
While City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson has raised far less in her bid to unseat Cranley as mayor -- $182,945 so far -- she described her effort as a grassroots campaign that could overcome top-dollar fundraising.
"We are proud of what we have raised to date and believe we will raise enough to get our message to voters and win the election,” Simpson said in a prepared statement. “Our donors are mostly individuals who care about this city and deserve visionary leadership that will make Cincinnati greater for everyone. While I expect John has raised more, we saw both in the park levy failure and in Mark Mallory's victory over David Pepper in 2005 that more money does not equal victory."
Tuesday was the first filing deadline of the year and reports covered how much Monday candidates raised and spent in 2016.
Because Rob Richardson Jr. did not declare his candidacy for mayor until Jan. 3, 2017, he had no campaign contributions to report for the prior year. His Ohio Campaign Finance Report showed $8,000 of income on hand as a loan from his election committee.
“Quite frankly, we absolutely knew going into it that our competitors had a multiple year head start,” said Richardson’s campaign manager, Danny O’Connor. “We absolutely expect to be highly competitive with our opponents’ (fundraising totals) in this race.”
Richardson has spent the past four weeks intensely focused on fundraising, O’Connor said.
“We expect a very high number when we get to the pre-primary campaign filing in April,” O’Connor said.
Meanwhile Cranley already launched his first in a series of radio ads on Friday. These ads highlight the stories of black business owners who describe how their businesses have expanded and improved after the city began awarding more contracts to minorities under Cranley.
Television ads will be coming, but Kincaid said no start date had been decided yet.
“We’re confident given the amount of money we have and will raise that we’ll have a robust television campaign that will focus on telling John’s story, “ Kincaid said.
Cranley began raising money in February 2014, and his most recent campaign filing reveals high-profile business owners as donors such as Mike Brown, owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Bob Castellini Jr., son of Bob Castellini, president and CEO of the Cincinnati Reds.
Cranley also drew donors from some noteworthy Republican families such as Western & Southern CEO John Barrett, and Brad Lindner, CEO of United Dairy Farmers.
Meanwhile Simpson raised $80,209 in 2016, most after announcing she would challenge Cranley for mayor in August.
Most are small-dollar donations, some being $20 in cash, and many are online contributions. She carried forward $78,580 in previous campaign funds, and had $95,322 on hand as of Dec. 31, 2016, after expenses.