Ohio Democrats make their plans after Tim Ryan announces he won’t run for governor

OH-Gov: Surprise, surprise, surprise. For the umpteenth time, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan has announced that he will not run for statewide office and will instead stay in the House. A number of Ohio Democrats were waiting to see if Ryan would run for governor and now that he’s said no, we’re likely to see a lot of movement.

And we didn’t need to wait long for the first Buckeye State Democrat to enter the race to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. John Kasich. On Tuesday, almost immediately after Ryan made his plans known, state Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, who like Ryan hails from the Youngstown area, announced he was running. Schiavoni has reportedly been preparing to get in for a while and was waiting to see what Ryan would do.

However, Schiavoni may have some primary opposition very soon. Also on Tuesday, ex-Rep. Betty Sutton confirmed that she was seriously considering and “will have an announcement next week.” Sutton was last on the ballot in 2012, after redistricting threw her into the same northeastern seat as Republican Rep. Jim Renacci. Sutton lost 52-48, running ahead of Obama’s 53-45 deficit here. After that, Sutton received a federal appointment to serve as administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., a position she resigned as the Obama administration ended.

A number of other Ohio Democrats have made noises about running for governor. The Cleveland Plain Dealer Henry Gomez reports that, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and ex-Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, who just left the U.S. Commerce Department, are more likely to run in a Ryan-less field. However, Whaley is also up for re-election this year, and unless she wants to try and run for both jobs at once, she may need to make up her mind quickly. Ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich, who was Team Blue’s treasurer nominee, also is reportedly interested, though Gomez says she may decide to go for a different statewide office.

One big wildcard hanging over the race is ex-state Attorney General Richard Cordray, who serves as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. However, even if Cordray wants to go back home and run for governor, he may not be able to. The GOP would love to gut or kill the CFPB and if Cordray resigns, he’ll make their job far easier. Cordray can’t run for office as long as he holds his job in D.C., but if he leaves voluntarily, he’ll anger prominent liberals who want him to stay and save the bureau. If Trump manages to fire Cordray and any legal challenges are resolved in the GOP’s favor in time for 2018, Cordray can run for office as the guy who got fired for standing up for the middle class. But if things drag on for months and months, Cordray may just need to sit out the governor’s race regardless of what he really wants to do.

A few other Democrats could also run. State Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill says he’ll defer to Cordray, but also insists he won’t decide until the end of 2017. O’Neill has a horrible relationship with the state party, which could hinder a bid. Ex-state Sen. Nina Turner, who was the 2014 Democratic nominee for secretary of state, is considering. Turner was a vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential primary, but she angered other Democrats by refusing to endorse or campaign for Hillary Clinton, and for briefly flirting with serving as Jill Stein’s running mate on the Green Party ticket.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune also hasn’t ruled out a bid, though his brief 2014 run does not inspire confidence. Ex-Rep. Dennis Kucinich also hasn’t said no; while Kucinich has portrayed himself as a liberal populist, in recent years he’s praised Trump and repeatedly met with and defended Syria’s murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The race has already begun on the GOP side. Attorney General Mike DeWine (a former U.S. senator) and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor are in, and Secretary of State Jon Husted is likely to join them soon. Wealthy Rep. Jim Renacci, who beat Sutton in 2012, is also considering. Things went horribly for Democrats in Ohio in 2014 and 2016, and Democrats hope they can rebound next year by re-electing Sen. Sherrod Brown and flipping the governor’s mansion.

P.S: With Ryan staying in the House, Democrats will have an easier time defending his Youngstown 13th District. This seat swung from 63-35 Obama to 51-45 Clinton, and the GOP would likely have targeted it if Ryan left.


VA-Sen: Ex-Gov., two-timed very failed presidential candidate, and 2008 very unsuccessful GOP Senate nominee Jim Gilmore is considering badly losing another race.


MD-Gov: On Tuesday, ex-NAACP head Ben Jealous confirmed that he “actively weighing” a bid for the Democratic nomination to face GOP Gov. Larry Hogan. If Jealous won, he’d be Maryland’s first African American governor. However, a few other Democrats are also considering this race, and Hogan begins the cycle with strong approval ratings. Jealous also considered running for the Senate and for mayor of Baltimore in 2015, but passed on both. However, if Jealous gets in, his connections from his time at the NAACP could help him raise money and get his name out before next year’s primary.

NM-Gov: Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham kicked off her campaign for governor back in December, and she remains the only declared candidate on either side. This week, EMILY’s List endorsed Lujan Grisham’s campaign, which could help her reach out to more donors. Several other Democrats, including state Attorney General Hector Balderas, have expressed interest in running to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Susana Martinez.


CA-34: Another labor group has endorsed Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez in the crowded April special election for this safely blue downtown Los Angeles seat. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, has joined the SEIU, AFSCME, and much of the state Democratic establishment, in Gomez’s corner.

IA-03: This Des Moines-area seat has been a frustrating target for Democrats for a while. In 2014, Republican David Young won an expensive race 53-42 during the GOP wave. Last year, Young beat Democrat Jim Mowrer 53-40 as this seat was swinging from 51-47 Obama to 49-45 Trump. But this district is too competitive for Democrats to write off, and a few potential candidates are taking a look at challenging Young.

A few weeks ago, attorney Anna Ryan, who works in the state Office of Consumer Advocate, said she was considering running; it’s unclear if Ryan has the connections she’d need to win what would be a tough race. Iowa Starting Line also reports that investor Mike Sherzan is planning to run and could announce this week, though Sherzan has yet to say anything publicly.

Sherzan ran in 2016 and used his money to air ads portraying himself as a caring businessman who looks out for his employees. However, Mowrer ran a commercial late in the primary arguing that “banker Mike Sherzan was fighting to weaken President Obama’s Wall Street reform laws.” The race seems to have turned against Sherzan very late, with a Mowrer poll from two weeks before the primary giving Mowrer just a 36-35 lead; Mowrer ended up winning the nomination 50-36. It’s unclear how much damage Mowrer’s ad did in the homestretch, but if Sherzan runs again, he’s going to want to prepare for these types of commercials.

A third potential Democrat also is making noises about running. Longtime political consultant Pete D’Alessandro, who was Bernie Sander’s campaign coordinator during the Iowa presidential caucus and has worked in key positions in state Democratic campaigns for decades, tells Starting Line he’s considering. Starting Line’s Pat Rynard says that D’Alessandro has a “large and loyal following from his time on the Sanders campaign” and, despite his long political history, has a “very authentic outsider persona” that could help him appeal to working-class voters. At the very least, it sounds like D’Alessandro has some solid connections in the world of Iowa Democratic politics that could come in handy.


The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.

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