OH-Gov: On Sunday, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, kicked off his long-planned bid to succeed termed-out Gov. John Kasich. The next day, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination, and both candidates face competitive primaries next year.
We’ll start with Husted, a former state House speaker and state senator who was elected statewide in the 2010 GOP wave. Since then, he’s repeatedly attracted scorn from voting rights advocates for trying to cut the availability of early voting. Ohio Democrats made a serious attempt to unseat him in 2014, but another GOP wave and the collapse of Team Blue’s gubernatorial nominee helped propel Husted to a 60-36 win over then-state Sen. Nina Turner.
Cleveland.com has described Husted and Kasich as old foes, but the governor’s enmity hasn’t hampered Husted’s fundraising: He reported a healthy $2.5 million war chest to start the year. Husted joins Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who has Kasich’s support; Attorney General Mike DeWine, a former U.S. senator; and wealthy Rep. Jim Renacci in the primary.
Whaley, meanwhile, was first elected in 2013, and she won a second four-year term earlier this year unopposed, the first time that's ever happened in Dayton. Whaley has been described as a rising star in the state Democratic Party, but she, too, needs to get through a crowded field. Ex-Rep. Betty Sutton, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich are already running, and it’s far too early to say who, if anyone, might be the frontrunner. Democrats in Ohio have taken repeated beatings in recent election cycles, including last year, when Donald Trump won the state by decisive 51-43. Flipping the governor’s mansion would go a long way towards revitalizing Buckeye State Democrats, who also need to defend Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2018.
A few other Democrats also are considering running for governor, including Turner, while ex-Rep. Dennis Kucinich (unfortunately) seems interested as well. Former state Attorney General Richard Cordray, who currently serves as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, could dramatically shake up the Democratic primary if he got in, but as we’ve noted before, he’s in a very tough spot.
If Cordray resigns his post, Trump would have a much easier time destroying or at least severely weakening the CFPB, so Cordray can’t voluntarily leave without dismaying liberals. However, while some Republicans have publicly called for Trump to try and fire Cordray, BuzzFeed’s Henry Gomez noted last month that several Ohio Republicans fear that if he’s sacked, he’ll just go home and run for governor, which gives them a reason to want to keep him in his current job. It’s also not even clear if Trump can legally get rid of him, so for the foreseeable future at least, Cordray can’t feasibly run for governor in 2018 even if he wants to. Cordray’s term expires in July of 2018, which is well after the Democratic primary.