Major Shifts in Ohio Governor’s Race Impact Primary Battles

Both the Ohio Democratic and Republican Party made major news in November impacting the May, 2018 Primary for Governor. Governor John Kasich cannot seek a third term due to the state of Ohio’s Constitution limit on Governors serving two consecutive terms in office. The open Governor’s seat has set off a battle among Republicans and Democrats seeking to serve as the state’s top elected officials.

Democrats have been watching a group of candidates’ campaign for Governor who have never been elected to statewide office. That all changed in November. Former Ohio Attorney General and State Treasurer Richard Cordray announced he was stepping down from the high-profile federal government job as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Everyone in Ohio understands Cordray would not leave this office early and permit the Trump Administration to appoint a conservative new leader to this organization if he was not going to run for Governor. Cordray’s experience at the state and federal level makes him the instant frontrunner in the Democratic Primary. His late entry into the race may not prevent a Democratic Primary battle though. The response of the current field of Democratic candidates for Governor to Cordray’s resignation from his federal post was not welcoming. Most of his potential opponents questioned why he would relinquish this critical federal post to the Trump Administration. Cordray, who is a very accomplished lawyer who clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court, will have to move quickly to raise money to prepare for a Democratic Primary battle and will likely need the help of national Democratic leaders such as former President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others to prevent a costly Primary Election he cannot afford to endure.

Corday’s potential entry into the Governor’s race also impacted the Republicans seeking to replace John Kasich. In a startling announcement, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has raised millions of dollars and been running an aggressive and impressive campaign for Governor, announced he would join Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine’s campaign as his Lt. Governor. Husted’s move is a huge win for the Dewine campaign and illustrates the dominance of Dewine’s name identification with voters but also the deep connection he has built battling the opioid addiction crisis facing the Buckeye State. The Dewine-Husted ticket is a Republican game plan that worked in 1990 when Dewine was seeking the Governor’s seat but decided to join George Voinovich on his ticket and Bob Taft agreed not to challenge Voinovich but to seek instead to run for Ohio Secretary of State. The 1990 Republican moves resulted in statewide election victories not just that year but in every year except in 2006. The Dewine-Husted move also cripples of the campaigns of the two other candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Governor. Mike Dewine was going to be very difficult to beat in a Primary Election battle that included Jon Husted. With Jon Husted actually on Mike Dewine’s team, substantial business community support and a limited field will make the Dewine-Husted team nearly impossible to defeat.

A little November excitement may lead to a less than exciting May than was expected. However, there will be plenty of fireworks in 2018 as both political parties seek to have their candidate reside in the Governor’s Mansion.

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