Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill said Saturday he’s leaning toward entering the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary, with a final announcement coming later this month.
“I want to do it,” the 70-year-old Chagrin Falls resident told cleveland.com in a telephone interview. The only thing stopping him from launching a campaign right now, he said, is the thought of the “immense personal sacrifice” he would make by having to step down from the court early to run.
O’Neill, who must retire from the court next year because of age limits, has said he wouldn’t run for governor if Richard Cordray, the director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, enters the race.
But he said Saturday that he has “grown impatient waiting for Richard.”
O’Neill drew headlines this summer when he said a mutual friend told him that Cordray would jump in the race; O’Neill now says that while he has no information about Cordray’s plans.
The justice posted on Facebook that he rented Chagrin Township Hall for his announcement on Oct. 29 – not coincidentally, he said, it’s the same day as the four current Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls will hold their second debate in Columbus.
“I don’t believe any of them can win,” O’Neill said of the four candidates: ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich, ex-U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
O’Neill surprised Ohio political observers by winning his Supreme Court seat in 2012 despite taking no campaign contributions. But this time, O’Neill said, he would be able to raise the money necessary to run a successful gubernatorial campaign. His path to victory, he said, would be the same as in 2012: campaigning for votes in all of Ohio’s 88 counties.
O’Neill has long been a political gadfly who hasn’t hesitated to criticize state Democratic officials. On Saturday, he said one of the reasons he’s looking at running for governor is the members of the state Democratic Party’s executive committee are “political cowards” who have refused to weigh in on Issue 2, the drug-pricing statewide ballot issue that is up for a vote next month. For his part, O’Neill said he’s “an absolute yes” on Issue 2.
He also said that the policy positions he’s put out already, including a call to legalize marijuana for recreational use, have received an “overwhelming” positive response.