Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Cedarville Republican who’s running for governor, announced Thursday that Secretary of State Jon Husted, once the Ohio House’s speaker, who’d also been running for governor, will instead run for lieutenant governor as DeWine’s running mate on a 2018 DeWine-Husted ticket, a matchup that looks like a political master stroke.
Also seeking to become the 2018 GOP nominee for governor are Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, of suburban Akron, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, of Wadsworth. Both said they’re staying in the race.
Taylor came out swinging: “[DeWine’s announcement] is great news for political consultants and lobbyists on Capitol Square. But those aren’t the people I support. I speak for the people. Mike DeWine is the past. I will fight for Ohio’s future.”
Renacci’s spokesman James Slepian was equally cordial: “As we’ve said for months, this race will come down to a clear choice between liberal Columbus career politicians and Jim Renacci, a conservative Columbus outsider who will break up the establishment status quo and put Ohio first.”
Republicans, though, need to focus their fire on Democrats, not on each other, given that 2018 may well be a Democratic year in Ohio.
Six Democrats are or will be vying for their party’s gubernatorial nomination. Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, unseated by DeWine in 2010, is expected to announce soon. Cordray most recently was director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Democrats who’ve already announced their quest for the governorship are state Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill; former state Rep. Connie Pillich, of Cincinnati; state Sen. Joseph Schiavoni, of suburban Youngstown; former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, of suburban Akron, and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. (To no one’s surprise, TV ringmaster Jerry Springer said this week he’s not running.)
Democratic State Chair David Pepper, saying what a Democratic state chair is supposed to say about Republicans, characterized the DeWine-Husted ticket this way: “It’s not a surprise to see them team up; they are part of the status quo Columbus insiders who have left behind so many communities and families across our state in the decades they’ve been in office.”
That theme – “insiders” – may resonate (negatively) in some of the Ohio Republican Party’s furthest corners, where inexperience is considered a civic virtue. But as Ohio’s amateur-hour General Assembly demonstrates every time it meets, the Statehouse sorely needs experienced officeholders.
Besides, DeWine and Husted are vote magnets. And the object of a political party is to win elections, a precept Democrats might want to review.
DeWine’s resume: Greene County prosecuting attorney; state senator; U.S. House member; Ohio’s lieutenant governor; U.S. senator; Ohio’s attorney general. Husted’s: Ohio House member; Ohio House speaker; state senator; Ohio’s secretary of state.
Politically speaking, it’s perfectly appropriate for Pepper to cite measures of economic drift, such as data showing that “[Ohio’s] job growth has trailed the national average for 59 straight months.” But, while it’s true that Republican John Kasich has been Ohio’s governor over that span, Barack Obama – an inconvenient fact for Democrats – was in the White House for 48 of those 59 months.
A GOP strategist privately said last week Ohio is looking blue-ish, thanks to Donald Trump’s antics and the GOP’s incompetent congressional leadership. That might challenge even the DeWine-Husted ticket.
But Ohio voters can be selective. In 1974, amid Watergate’s aftermath, voters returned Republican James A. Rhodes to the governorship, unseating Democratic Gov. John J. Gilligan (albeit, by roughly 11,000 votes). In 1988, Ohio gave GOP presidential nominee George H.W. Bush a 477,000-vote edge over Democrat Michael S. Dukakis – but re-elected Democratic Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum, a liberal’s liberal from Greater Cleveland, by 610,000 votes. Metzenbaum defeated an otherwise successful Republican, future Gov. George V. Voinovich.
Given that, there’s nothing predictable about 2018 – except that Ohio’s Republicans, as usual, seem to be better at lining up slates than Democrats are.