By Marc Kovac
and David skolnick
Former Gov. Ted Strickland will not challenge Gov. John Kasich in next year’s gubernatorial contest.
Strickland, a Democrat, announced his decision Tuesday, ending speculation about a rematch of a race that he lost by two percentage points three years ago to Republican Kasich.
“Frances [his wife] and I will continue to be politically active, private citizens,” Strickland said in a statement. “We will continue to stand with working men and women to build a stronger Ohio — and to defeat anti-worker and anti-middle-class legislation that may arise.”
The decision leaves a handful of potential Democratic challengers in 2014. Former Attorney General Richard Cordray, Cuyahoga County executive Ed FitzGerald and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-13th, are among those interested in running for governor next year.
Ryan “will decide in the near future which path he will pursue to best serve the people of his community, state and country,” according to his campaign.
In a separate statement, Ryan praised Strickland for his “deep concern and understanding for the challenges faced by Ohio’s poor and working-class families. I believe those traits, as well as his clear vision for Ohio and steady hand in tumultuous times would have served him well in the upcoming contest for governor. But I know too that Gov. Strickland will find a way to put his considerable talents to work helping his fellow citizens.”
In his statement Tuesday, Strickland defended his administration’s work to improve the state and set the stage for economic recovery.
“With the help of President [Barack] Obama, who provided the funds necessary to keep Ohio and all of America from slipping into another Great Depression, we were able to preserve the social safety net, make important investments in education and position Ohio’s economy for the recovery that started in February 2010,” he said.
He added, “In short, I believe my administration stood and spoke for the causes that count.”
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said, “It will be hard for any Democrat to argue why [Kasich] shouldn’t continue to create jobs for hardworking Ohio families and put Ohio back on the right track.”
With Strickland’s announcement, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said that “strong Democratic officeholders,” without naming names, can now focus on challenging Kasich’s record.