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Just weeks after election, candidate announces a run for Ohio governor in 2026

Matt Mayer, president of Opportunity Ohio
Matt Mayer, president of Opportunity Ohio

The November election was just a few weeks ago, with Republicans sweeping the statewide offices, starting with governor. But already, there’s a potential Republican candidate for the next race for governor in 2026.

Matt Mayer used to head up the conservative think tank the Buckeye Institute and now is president of the conservative policy group Opportunity Ohio. He’s starting an exploratory campaign for the Republican nomination for governor in 2026 because of the time and money it will take him to build that campaign.

"I'm an outsider, and so I know how hard it's going to be to kind of get to the 88 counties and start building the grassroots support, see if I can raise the money to be competitive in a Republican primary," Mayer said. "And that's just going to take time. So I want to make sure slow and steady wins the race.

Mayer said he's not an "establishment" candidate, and that Ohio "needs more [Florida Gov. Ron] Desantis and less DeWine". He criticizes recent Republican policies that he said haven't helped the state’s lagging pandemic recovery or kept people from moving away, especially outside the big cities.

“I think we’ve got to put right to work in place. We've got to eliminate the state income tax. We've got to have fundamental government reforms," Mayer said, citing a 20-year term limit for state lawmakers as one of those changes. "We've got to get elected officials in a pay-for-performance environment, meaning cut the pay of the governor, cut the pay of the lieutenant governor, and cut the pay of every legislator and let them have a bonus eligibility if they get Ohio's private sector in the top ten job growth. If pay-for-performance works in the classroom, which Republicans we've said that forever it should work for the legislature."

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted is likely to run for governor in 2026, and is expected to bring a lot of GOP support and money. Mayer said other candidates could include Attorney General Dave Yost and Auditor Keith Faber. In the May 2022 primary, DeWine won with 48%, with opponents Jim Renacci and Joe Blystone getting 28% and 22%, respectively.

Mayer said since DeWine didn't win a majority in that primary, he believes Republican primary voters are "dying for new, bold vision" as opposed to policies of career politicians such as Mike DeWine. DeWine was reelected in November with 62.4% of the vote, the third best performance for a candidate for governor in state history.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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