As we get closer to the Feb. 7 filing deadline, we’re seeing a lot of changes in the gubernatorial and senatorial races, particularly in the last week or so.
Richard Cordray, considered the leading Democrat in the race, made a big move Wednesday.
Cordray announced that former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton was going to be his lieutenant governor running mate.
This did two things. First, it got one of Cordray’s top rivals out of the race. Second, it strengthened his position having an established former elected official on his ticket.
“Betty’s career has been focused on the ‘kitchen table’ issues that are at the core of my campaign,” Cordray said. “Just as importantly, Betty knows how to take on the tough political fights and win, and will be a formidable partner in the coming months.”
It creates a ticket of leading Democrats, similar to what happened with Republicans when Secretary of State Jon Husted withdrew from his party’s gubernatorial primary to take the secondary lieutenant governor position to Attorney General Mike DeWine.
The Cordray-Sutton move has pushed Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley out of the race. She was to make an announcement today that she was leaving and endorsing the Cordray-Sutton ticket.
Even with Sutton out and Whaley leaving, there’s still a crowded field on the Democratic side for governor.
Ex-U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, also a former Cleveland mayor, will enter the Democratic primary race for governor likely Wednesday. It’s hard to gauge what kind of impact he’ll have on the primary.
Among those still in the primary are state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill.
Schiavoni and Stephanie Dodd, his running mate, said in a joint statement that voters are “looking for something different” in state government.
“Democrats need a team that can excite young people, appeal to voters lost in 2016, and unite our party and our state moving forward,” their statement read. “Ohio’s future requires a new generation of leadership.”
Pillich said: “Congresswoman Betty Sutton is a trailblazer who has served as an example for women everywhere and as a fighter for working Ohioans. I believe her candidacy was a positive force in this campaign and I am sorry that she feels the need to bow out of the race.”
Schiavoni, Cordray and O’Neill have announced running mates while Pillich has not.
On the Republican side, there are now only two candidates running for governor after U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci decided Thursday to instead run for the Senate.
The DeWine-Husted ticket is clearly the frontrunner.
On Wednesday, the same day Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, also a Republican governor candidate, announced her running mate, the campaign of DeWine-Husted sent an email touting the endorsement of 274 elected officials from 87 of the state’s 88 counties.
The DeWine-Husted pairing has received criticism from both Renacci and Taylor for being career politicians.
In Taylor’s Wednesday announcement that businessman Nathan Estruth would be her running mate, she called him “a political outsider who shares my conservative values, cares about helping create new jobs for Ohio, and is unafraid of challenging the status quo.”
For good measure, Taylor added: “Our ticket is a clear contrast to the establishment career politician marriage between Mike DeWine and Jon Husted.”
In the Senate race, Renacci announced Thursday that he was in it.
A week ago, state Treasurer Josh Mandel made a surprise announcement that he was quitting the U.S. Senate race because of an undisclosed but serious illness to his wife.
Renacci had said he would consider it if the White House asked him to do so. This from a congressman who has said he can’t stand being in Washington, D.C. He met Wednesday with White House officials and was convinced to run “to help protect the future of President [Donald] Trump’s agenda.”
There are also reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reached out to J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling book “Hillbilly Elegy,” about running for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Sherrod Brown. Word is that Vance, who had previously declined to run for the position, is reconsidering it.
Vance’s book is about white working-class people in the Rust Belt and has talked about how they backed Trump, but the author isn’t a fan of the president and didn’t even vote for him.
Investment banker Mike Gibbons, a Republican, is remaining in the Senate race.
He has the money to be competitive – Gibbons said he’ll spend $5 million of his own money to fund his campaign – but has a long way to go as far as name ID.
The winner of the Republican primary will take on incumbent, Democrat Brown, who has strong name recognition and as of Dec. 31, $9.8 million in his campaign account.