Summit County Democrats are spending big money this year to hold on to and nab nonjudicial, countywide offices.
The six Democrats running for county executive, sheriff, prosecutor, fiscal officer, engineer and clerk of courts have spent about $520,000 so far — or nearly six times more than their Republican challengers, according to campaign finance reports filed last week with the county Board of Elections.
The Democrats, who control five of those offices now, raised $362,081 during the reporting period, while Republicans collected $94,054.
The disparity is easy to explain: Incumbents have an advantage in raising money and Summit County is heavily Democratic, said Stephen Brooks, associate director of the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.
“The [fundraising and spending] gap is probably wider than I would have expected it to be but it doesn’t surprise me that the Democrats have a relatively large lead,” he said.
Incumbent Democratic County Executive Russ Pry led the way in fundraising and spending. He amassed a $271,442 war chest — which includes money raised in previous reporting periods — and spent $182,216 so far this year in his effort for another four-year term.
His Republican opponent, Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson, had $15,920 available and spent $6,119.
Pry was generous with his cash.
He gave $9,000 to the Summit County Democratic Party, and handed over $5,500 to Clerk of Courts Daniel Horrigan and $3,450 to Elinore Marsh Stormer who’s running for Probate Court judge.
Dentists also should send Pry a thank-you note. He spent $3,692 on candy to hand out at parades.
The county executive collected $13,980 in contributions this reporting period from his employees.
The amount of cash raised and spent doesn’t mean a candidate is better suited for the job or will win, but it doesn’t hurt.
“The more money you have, the more you can get your name in front of the voters,” Brooks said. “That gap in money is much more important, I think, in the lower races than it is in the ones where everybody knows everything about the candidates.”
It also makes sense that Democrats raised and spent so much money in a tight presidential election year, because it’s unclear whose presidential supporters will turn out on Election Day, he said.
“Even with the most entrenched incumbent, it’s better to run scared, I heard somebody say once,” Brooks said.
The sheriff’s race features two retired law enforcement officials who have never held political office before — or even been politically active. Both are seeking to replace Republican Sheriff Drew Alexander who opted not to run again.
Despite the lack of political experience, Democrat Steve Barry, a retired sheriff’s captain, apparently knows how to raise money. He had $118,110 available and spent $71,418.
Republican challenger Randy Rivers, a retired Cuyahoga Falls police captain, had $22,449 available and spent $18,754.
Barry attributed the amount raised to Democrats wanting to capture the office now under Republican control and people believing in his experience.
His single largest contribution came from FirstEnergy Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Anthony Alexander who gave $5,000.
“I was surprised by the amounts coming in as well as going out,” Barry said.
In September, the Barry campaign spent $16,187 on steaks from Pressler’s Meats in Akron for the annual sheriff’s steak-out event.
Rivers’ largest contribution, $3,000, came from the county Republican Party. Party Chairman Alex Arshinkoff and his wife, Karen, also gave him $3,500.
He also received $165 in contributions from retired Akron police detective Frank Martucci Jr., who lost to Barry earlier this year in the Democratic primary.
“I didn’t have all the monetary resources to buy big billboards and do these mailers and hire political consultants,” Rivers said. “I just went out and pounded the pavement.”
County Republicans traditionally have not thrown a lot of money into nonjudicial, countywide races because Summit County leans heavily Democrat. That’s apparently the case again this year.
In the other races
• Incumbent Engineer Al Brubaker, a Democrat, had $110,241 available and spent $104,485. Republican challenger Bruce Robinson had $7,621 available and spent $7,062.
Brubaker raised $29,100 during the reporting period, including $2,455 from engineer employees.
The county Republican Central Committee provided $3,500 for Robinson.
• Incumbent Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, a Democrat, had $117,376 available and spent $46,043. Her Republican opponent, Candace Kim Knox, had $17,284 available and spent $16,844.
Walsh raised a paltry — at least compared to her Democratic peers — $13,400 this year, but had more than $100,000 already built up in her war chest. She picked up nearly half that amount, $6,410, through donations from her staff.
Knox received $5,000 from the Republican Party.
• Fiscal Officer Kristen Scalise, a Democrat who was appointed to the position last year, had $96,847 available and spent $67,679. Republican challenger Ron Antal had $28,355 available and spent $23,654.
Scalise collected $34,278 in contributions from her staff — nearly half of the $74,491 she raised this reporting period.
• Incumbent Clerk of Courts Dan Horrigan, a Democrat, had $53,137 available and spent $47,990. His Republican challenger, Kandi O’Connor, had $16,592 available and spent $15,665.
Horrigan collected $2,083 from his staff.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.