Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray will step down as the head of a consumer watchdog agency by the end of the month and is expected to run for the Ohio Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
Cordray, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced his decision to leave in an email to all bureau staff early Wednesday.
“As I have said many times, but feel just as much today as I ever have, it has been a joy of my life to have the opportunity to serve our country as the first director of the Consumer Bureau by working alongside all of you here,” he wrote.
Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Eckart, a Cleveland Democrat, said “several prominent Democrats have told me this morning they expect Cordray to run for governor.”
He added, “Cordray has a very compelling story and is motivated by convictions that will resonate well in Ohio and especially for those voters in Ohio who believe they have been left behind, ripped off, or ignored.”
Joe Rugola, a leading Ohio Democrat and director of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, said, “I fully expect he will at some time very soon be making some kind of an announcement about his intentions and I would be shocked if he didn’t run for governor.
“It absolutely isn’t too late for Rich to enter the race. The test will be to put together a campaign and surround himself with professionals who know what they are doing and raise a significant amount of money in a hurry.”
Former Ohio Democratic Chairman David Leland said he had not yet talked to Cordray about the governor’s race but “he would be a great candidate if he decides to run.”
“I’ve known him for over 25 years,” said Leland, now a state representative. “He always fought for issues that are important to people in the state of Ohio. I think taking his record at the CFPB and using it as a platform to say he’s actually fighting for working families in the state of Ohio would be tremendously successful for him.”
Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper declined to weigh in on Cordray as a potential nominee.
“We’re committed to an open primary process, and any candidate who wants to participate in our sanctioned debates and forums will need to go through the same vetting process that all other statewide candidates have gone through,” he said. “We haven’t heard from any new candidates at this time.”
Raj Shah, a deputy press secretary for President Donald Trump, said the administration “will announce an acting director and the president’s choice to replace Mr. Cordray at the appropriate time.”
Cordray’s agency had long irked Republicans who argued it was created to have too much power and too little accountability. During his time at the head of the agency, Cordray earned foes such as House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who argued that the agency is “rogue” and “has done more to hurt consumers than help them.”
Ken Blackwell, former domestic policy adviser to the Trump Presidential Transition Team and former Ohio state treasurer, also welcomed the news — as well as the opportunity to take a shot at Cordray.
“Under his direction, the CFPB has issued thousands of pages of crushing regulations, some of which have irreparably harmed consumers, and crippled American businesses,” Blackwell said. “If Director Cordray decides to run for governor, which is highly anticipated, the people of Ohio should be wary of his crony behavior and reject his candidacy outright.”
Ohio Republican Chairman Jane Timken came up with this withering put-down: “Ohio voters know a swamp creature when they see one, and just like Hillary, Crooked Cordray can’t be trusted.”
Cordray also was blasted by his Democratic rivals for governor.
“The CFPB has done good work to protect consumers, but by resigning Cordray is finally doing what Trump couldn’t – undoing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” said Faith Oltman, a spokeswoman for Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
“It’s disheartening and disappointing that my friend, Richard Cordray, would abandon his role of protecting our nation’s consumers by turning of this critical agency to Donald Trump,” said Democratic candidate Connie Pillich.
“Ohio deserves a governor who will be a champion for middle class and working families because they need opportunities to succeed, and that’s what I have done and fought for my entire career,” said former Rep. Betty Sutton, also running for governor as a Democrat.
Joe Schiavoni, a Boardman state senator who also is seeking the Democratic nomination, said he’s not worried about Cordray’s prospective entry into the race.
“I think Cordray represents the same old recycled politician and if that’s what people are going to want, then they’ll have that opportunity,” he said. “But they’ll also have the opportunity to pick somebody that’s new, that has some new ideas and is just trying to represent the best interests of all Ohioans and trying to build a stronger Ohio.”
Ohio Supreme Court Justice William M. O’Neill, who is running for governor as a Democrat, declined to comment “until I talk to my friend Richard Cordray. I would expect Rich will be calling me when he can.”
But at a news conference on Capitol Hill, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who designed the bureau and recruited Cordray seven years ago to help set it up, vigorously defended Cordray, saying “he has stayed for seven years and devoted his life to making this agency work on behalf of the American people. I feel nothing but gratitude to Rich.”
“It has been an honor to know and serve alongside my friend Richard Cordray in Washington and Ohio for nearly two decades,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township. “His dedication, determination and drive have made a difference in the lives of consumers across the nation.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a statement that “all Americans owe him a debt of gratitude.”
“The White House has said it wants to stand up for the middle class,” he said. “If that’s true, the president must nominate a successor who will put working people ahead of Wall Street.”
Cordray, in his email to staff, said the agency has provided $12 billion in relief to some 30 million consumers and handled more than 1.3 million complaints related to banking and financial issues.
“My gratitude and appreciation for what you mean to me and to our nation is deep and lasting, and I will be taking the opportunity to make that clear to you in person over the days ahead,” he wrote.
A spokesman said the agency would offer “no further comment at this time.”