Vowing to fight corruption in public office and defend the rights of crime victims, state Auditor Jim Petro announced yesterday in the Lucas County Courthouse that he's running for Ohio attorney general.
The stop in Toledo, part of a five-city tour, was merely a formality to confirm Mr. Petro is seeking a job he has long coveted.
“Probably more than any other job in public life, I've aspired to be attorney general,” Mr. Petro said following a speech to a few dozen supporters.
He said, if elected, his primary goals would be to fight corruption in public office, use advanced technology to fight crime, maintain the quality of the legal representation provided to the state, and protect the rights of crime victims.
“As attorney general, I will advance my fight of public corruption and theft of public funds,” Mr. Petro said during a short speech. “Nothing can damage trust more than public corruption.”
Mr. Petro, 52, ran for attorney general in 1989, but shifted his candidacy to auditor at the request of Republican Party leaders in 1990. He lost that race, but ran successfully in 1994 and 1998.
The same type of pressure used to get Mr. Petro to step aside during his first run for attorney general may be applied to state Treasurer Joe Deters, who hasn't made a secret of his desire to win the job.
Mr. Deters, 44, who was elected treasurer in 1998, told GOP leaders last week that he intends to run for attorney general, but hasn't made an official announcement.
The message to Mr. Deters yesterday from Mr. Petro and his backers seemed to be: We like you, Joe, but it's not your turn yet.
“There are a lot of people who believe Joe has just started as state treasurer and he should continue to build his record in state office,” said Mr. Petro, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner and state representative.
Mark Weaver, a political consultant to Mr. Deters, said yesterday that no candidate has an absolute claim on the job.
“We really like Jim Petro, but it's not about turns,” Mr. Weaver said. “It's about who can be the best attorney general and who can carry on the legacy of Betty Montgomery.”
Ms. Montgomery, a Republican from Perrysburg, is the current attorney general, but cannot run for re-election because of term limits.
Mr. Petro was accompanied yesterday by some political heavyweights - House Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford) and state Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green).
Mr. Gardner said state Republican leaders don't want to see two of the party's top officeholders slugging it out in a primary, particularly when Mr. Petro can't run for auditor again. Mr. Deters can seek a second term to his post.
“If one does not prevail in the primary, they aren't going to serve in statewide office in 2003,” Mr. Gardner said.
Mr. Householder, who is Mr. Petro's campaign chairman, said Mr. Petro has more experience running a large office than Mr. Deters.
“I think Jim Petro is a model for a statewide officeholder,” Mr. Householder said. “He has tremendous integrity and he's shown he can manage a large office and manage it very well.”
Mr. Petro additionally netted the personal endorsement of Patrick Kriner, chairman of the Lucas County GOP. He said the county committee hasn't made an endorsement yet.
“Jim has been active in Lucas County with the party,” Mr. Kriner said. “Not only has he been the keynote speaker at our Lincoln Day Dinner, but he came up during the last election cycle and worked on behalf of a few of our local candidates. That says a lot about the leadership of Jim Petro.”