Merrell, O’Brien leaders in money race
With just under a week until Delaware County voters cast their ballots to decide two county commissioner races, two candidates have opened commanding leads in at least one important metric.
Incumbent Delaware County Commissioner Ken O’Brien, who takes on former Delaware County Sheriff Al Myers in his Republican primary, and former Delaware Gazette publisher Gary Merrell, who will square off in a three-way primary against incumbent commissioner Tommy Thompson and Concord Township Trustee Joe Garrett, are both far outpacing their rivals in terms of cash-on-hand, according to campaign finance reports.
As of last week, O’Brien’s campaign had a cash balance of $14,300. Merrell, meanwhile, has $21,955 available to spend in his primary contest.
However, both have relied heavily on their personal finances to boost their campaign coffers. Merrell has loaned his campaign $15,000. O’Brien has contributed $20,000 towards his own re-election effort, $10,000 of which was rolled over from previous election efforts.
O’Brien’s opponent Myers has $1,422 cash-on-hand. Garrett’s campaign has just $655 to spend. Thompson, as of one week ago, had only $490 in his campaign war chest.
Despite loaning his campaign $15,000, Merrell, who has been endorsed by the county GOP, has proven to be by far the most prolific fundraiser of the five candidates vying for a seat on the county commission, raising just more than $13,000.
One of Merrell’s top contributors is GOP ad man and founder of Strategy Group for Media Rex Elsass, who pitched in $1,000 toward Merrell’s effort to unseat Thompson.
Merrell has also received the support of some Delaware County officer holders and their spouses, including Delaware County Sheriff Walter L. Davis; Delaware City Councilman Andrew Brush; Delaware City Municipal Court Judge David Gormley; Bill Antonoplos, husband of Delaware County Clerk of Courts Jan Antonoplos; and Delaware County Auditor George Kaitsa’s wife, Sharyl. All contributed $100 toward Merrell’s campaign, and appear to have made their donations at a January fundraiser.
One-time Thompson foe and former Delaware County Administrator Dave Cannon reached out from his new home in North Carolina to contribute $100 toward Merrell’s election efforts.
Merrell also received a $100 contribution from Families for Schweitzer, the campaign arm of Craig Schweitzer, who is looking to unseat State Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) in a GOP primary in Ohio’s new 67th house district.
Merrell has spent $2,250 on his campaign, including $900 to print campaign literature and $1,350 to purchase postage for campaign mailings.
O’Brien raised just $300 from individual donors, all $300 coming from Olentangy Local School Board of Education member Adam White.
He spent $1,241 on campaign literature, postage and a website. He also donated $180 to the county GOP.
Thompson, who is running despite his party’s endorsement of Merrell in the race, raised $1,755, including $50 from Delaware County Economic Development Director Gus Comstock. Larry Cline, who is very active in the Buckeye Valley Local School District, contributed $100. Most of those donations came from a fundraising event earlier this month.
But Thompson has spent nearly as much as he raised since last reporting campaign finance figures in December. He spent $1,731 on signs, election business cards, campaign magnets and an advertising campaign in the Council Communicator.
Myers has raised $1,670, of which $600 came from a Feb. 7 fundraiser. He has spent $247 on business cards, name badge pins and postage. He has also received in-kind contributions totaling $214. Of that, $170 came out of Myers’ own pocket, using the funds to pay for his filing fee, to obtain a copy of the State of the County report and to obtain a copy of his Ohio Ethics Commission report.
Garrett has raised $655. His fellow Concord Township Trustee Bart Johnson contributed $100 toward his campaign.
Garrett has also loan his campaign $1,848 to pay for signs and postage.