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It's A Crowded Race For Ohio Governor Already

Jo Ingles
Candidates who are publicly running for Governor right now

During the past week, two more candidates officially launched their campaigns for governor in 2018. Two Republican candidates have launched their campaigns, with two more expected soon. Another four are running in the Democratic primary. And yet no Democrat has officially announced their intent to run for a down ticket race. So why does it seem all of these candidates want to be governor? 

When Secretary of State Jon Husted entered the race last weekend, he joined a crowded Republican field officially seeking the nomination to run for governor next year. Northeast Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci announced earlier in March. But Attorney General Mike DeWine has expressed interest, has been raising money and is expected to run for the office too. And Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor is in the race, having filed her paperwork but not spending much time traveling the state in campaign mode. With four candidates in the race, it’s likely one of these candidates will win without a majority of the primary vote. But that doesn’t worry Blaine Kelly with the Ohio Republican Party.

“You know we have four very strong potential candidates for governor. They’ve all been proven to have great leadership. They are all worthy of the job. And they can all get it done.”

There are actually five statewide executive offices up for grabs next year – attorney general, auditor, secretary of state and treasurer along with the governor. And the occupants of those offices are all term-limited. But Kelly says the party isn’t encouraging any of those in the governor’s race to go for a different office.

“We saw what happens when you try to push candidates to do something else last year or when you try to rig a primary. You know it’s one of our top priorities to let Republican voters choose who their nominee will be.”

The Ohio Democratic Party endorsed Ted Strickland for US Senate before the primary last March – and Strickland ended up losing badly to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. And Kelly says Democrats last year showed a preference for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, a move Kelly says hurt the party in November. But the Ohio Republican Party, which controls every statewide elected office right now with the exception of one Supreme Court seat, did endorse Gov. John Kasich when he ran for president last year.

On the Democratic side, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley became the fourth candidate in her party to join the governor’s race. She says she brings a different perspective as an elected executive. There are three announced Democrats already in the race – Sen. and former minority leader Joe Schiavoni of the Youngstown area, former northeast Ohio Congresswoman Betty Sutton and former Cincinnati-area House member Connie Pillich. Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper says he’s not concerned that these four are jumping in for governor, not down ticket. He says he knows there will be good candidates announcing for those other races.

“I think we will end up having the strongest down ticket that people have seen in generations.”

Pepper admits the candidates running for his party’s bid for governor don’t have much name recognition, but he says voters aren’t that familiar with the Republicans candidates either, except for DeWine. Pepper, who ran against DeWine in 2014, says DeWine closely tied to the federal and statewide status quo.

One person who could shake things up on the Democratic side is Rich Cordray, the head of the national consumer financial protection bureau. Pepper notes he’s been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2018, especially since the office and Cordray himself are often targets of Republicans in Washington.

“He could very well run. If you look back at his record, he did very well in 2008. He led the whole ticket. He led the ticket in 2010. At the same time, I’m very confident that one of the other candidates, whoever wins the primary if Rich doesn’t run, will actually be a candidate to change the direction of Ohio.”

And if Cordray does end up running for governor, the four Democrats who have already entered the race to be the party’s gubernatorial nominee and others who are thinking about it could reconsider. They could choose to move into some of those unannounced down ticket spots – however, they would have to make a decision by the primary filing deadline in February. But at this point, it seems most candidates who want to run statewide want to go for governor. But there’s a lot of time between now and the primary next spring. And what happens during that time that might affect who voters want to lead the Buckeye State in the future.

Contact Jo Ingles at
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