ed_fitzgerald_and_eric_kearney.jpgCLEVELAND (AP) – A Democratic gubernatorial challenger in Ohio is standing by his recently picked running mate who owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal and state tax liens. News of the debts emerged just days after Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald selected state Sen. Eric Kearney's as his candidate for lieutenant governor.

It has complicated his party's hopes of unseating Republican Gov. John Kasich (KAY'-sik) next year.

The Northeast Ohio Media Group reports (http://bit.ly/1ilWv2u ) that FitzGerald defended Kearney on Friday, saying his record of service outweighs the criticism.

FitzGerald says the financial challenges are related to Kearney's struggling small business. And he says the senator has shown character in not walking away from the company, which is a publisher of the Cincinnati Herald, aimed at black readers.