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Cordray makes governor candidacy official

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GROVE CITY, Ohio — Using a small, packed downtown diner in his hometown as the setting, Richard Cordray on Tuesday sought to parlay his former federal job watching out for consumers into his newest role — candidate for governor.

The former Ohio attorney general, treasurer, state representative, and Jeopardy champion made official the Democratic candidacy that everyone but him had been talking about for more than a year.

“I look forward to the challenge,” he said at Lilly's Kitchen Table in Grove City. “It seems to me that the one thing people are looking for in a governor is someone who cares about the things that matter most in their lives, someone who has the ability to take on big challenges, solve problems, and make their lives better.

“... As governor, I'll focus on kitchen-table issues that keep families up at night, like the cost of health care and college, how to find that better job, and how to better save for retirement,” Mr. Cordray said.

He will launch a statewide tour that will start Wednesday with stops along the I-75 corridor in Cincinnati, Dayton, and finally at 4 p.m. in Toledo at Tony Packo’s Cafe, 1902 Front St.

The 58-year-old husband and father from the Columbus suburb of Grove City became the sixth person to jump into the race for his party's nomination next year to replace Republican Gov. John Kasich. 

Ohio Supreme Court Justice William M. O'Neill, a Democrat, has said he won't continue in the race if Mr. Cordray entered, but he wants to influence the policies that will be debated during the campaign, such as his priority of legalizing marijuana.

The other Democrats who’ve announced plans to run in May 8 primary election are Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former Cincinnati state Rep. Connie Pillich, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D., Boardman), and former Akron area U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton.

Mr. Cordray recently resigned with seven months left in his five-year term as the first director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a regulatory entity created in the wake of the 2008 recession, partly fueled by practices within the financial industry.

Although he spent the past few years in Washington, he is better known among Democrats than most of those already in the race. His website already contains a video of praise from his former boss, President Barack Obama, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who was critical in the creation of the bureau.

Despite the crowded field, Republicans have long assumed Mr. Cordray would be the person that their candidate will face in November, 2018.

As bureau director, Mr. Cordray drew controversy in pursuing rules on the payday-lending industry, banks, and credit card companies. As Ohio attorney general for a single term beginning in 2007, he filed lawsuits on behalf of consumers, including against major credit-rating agencies that he argued contributed to the financial crisis of 2008.

He dismissed a suggestion that he might have been away from Ohio too long.

“I came home over 300 times over the last six-and-a-half years,” he said. “During that time, Peggy and I, and the family lived here. Our twins went from middle school, graduated from high school ... and just went off to college this fall. Every weekend all through every one of those years, I was here in Ohio.

“I've always been somebody who talks to our neighbors and friends in his community ...” Mr. Cordray said. “I never became a creature of Washington. It always was strange to me. I found that I developed new allergies when I went there, and I thought that was maybe the best reaction I could have had.”

His success in politics has been spotty, losing elections about as frequently as he won them. He lost his bid for re-election as attorney general during the Republican sweep of 2010. He could potentially face a rematch with the man who defeated him in that election if Attorney General Mike DeWine wins the Republican nomination.

Republicans have long assumed that Mr. Cordray would be the leading Democratic candidate.

“Richard Cordray’s foray into the governor’s race only underscores how wrong the Democrats’ liberal slate of candidates is for the Buckeye State,” said Ellie Hockenbury, spokesman for the Republican Governors Association.

“Cordray oversaw an unaccountable and overreaching government agency in Washington, only to jump ship and attempt a partisan-driven stunt on his way out when he saw the opportunity to advance his political ambitions,” she said. “It is clear that Richard Cordray is wrong for Ohio, and we look forward to voters making their voices heard at the polls next year.”

In addition to Mr. DeWine, Republicans are offering Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, of Wadsworth, in their primary. Mr. DeWine was the only candidate that Mr. Cordray mentioned by name.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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