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Published: Saturday, 6/15/2002

Hagan falls behind Taft in quest for campaign cash


COLUMBUS - Since jumping into the governor's race in October, Democrat Tim Hagan has been battling more than Republican incumbent Bob Taft.

He's been fighting the perception that if he can't raise enough money to get his message on TV ads this fall, he has little hope of winning.

Yesterday, the mountain became steeper for Mr. Hagan's campaign.

Reports filed show that Mr. Hagan raised $154,748 from April 18 to June 7 - and has a balance of $198,152.

Mr. Taft disclosed that his campaign raised $2 million in the same period - and has a balance of $7.7 million.

“People don't give money to people unless they believe they are a winner,” said Catherine Turcer, campaign reform director of Ohio Citizen Action, a statewide consumer and environmental group. “Tim Hagan is such an underdog - $7.7 million is going to roll right over him. And when there isn't a true race, everybody loses because we need a debate over the condition of this state.”

At this time four years ago - when the governor's seat was open because Republican George Voinovich couldn't run for re-election - Mr. Taft's campaign had a balance of $6.1 million.

Democrat Lee Fisher's campaign had a balance of $3.5 million - a gap far narrower than the one Mr. Hagan, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner, has to close.

But Mr. Hagan yesterday said he remains confident he'll collect the money that his campaign needs.

“I find myself in the position in the next five months to try to raise a couple of million dollars to be at least viable. I'll never match [Mr. Taft] dollar for dollar. He gets all the money he wants to defend the indefensible,” Mr. Hagan said.

He said his wife, actress Kate Mulgrew, is hosting a fund-raiser today in Los Angeles. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat who may run for President in 2006, is set to hold a fund-raiser June 24 in Columbus, and former talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell has scheduled a July 25 fund-raiser for Mr. Hagan's campaign in New York City.

And on Aug. 24 in Cleveland, Ms. Mulgrew, who played Captain Kathyrn Janeway on the television series Star Trek Voyager, is hosting a fund-raiser that will feature the entire Voyager cast and an appearance by William Shatner, star of the original Star Trek series. Ms. Mulgrew also will be auctioning off her Voyager costume “including the boots.”

In a recent campaign visit to Cincinnati, Mr. Hagan gave a “riproaring speech” that attacked Mr. Taft's record on education and state finances and highlighted the governor's “lack of leadership,” said Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.

But to get that message out this fall, Mr. Hagan must raise more campaign dollars, he said.

“He has to do what the good fund-raisers do; get on the phone and start calling folks, getting to Democrats who are in a position to write the decent-size checks and doing the grassroots fund-raising with people who can give $25 to $50,” Mr. Burke said. “I remember watching Lee Fisher. He would operate two cell phones in the car between events. There was someone driving and he was raising the money.”

The Taft campaign issued a statement saying the $7.7 million balance “shows that Governor Taft's supporters have faith in his ability to lead the state now, and through 2006.”

Of the $2.01 million Mr. Taft raised from April 18 to June 7, about $1.85 million was raised in a May 10 fund-raiser hosted by President Bush in Columbus.

Mr. Bush posed for 75 photographs with donors who raised at least $25,000 each.

Among the co-chairs for that event was Tom Noe, a Toledo-area businessman and a member of the Ohio Board of Regents. “Everybody knows that Bob Taft is a good governor and everybody knows that he's the right person to be betting on,” Mr. Noe said. “[Mr. Hagan's] not the best candidate that the Democrats could have fielded.”

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