In this undated photo provided by Ohio Senate, Sen. Kevin Coughlin, R-Cuyahoga Falls, is shown. (AP Photo/Ohio Senate)
COLUMBUS - State Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R., Cuyahoga Falls) has a message for Ohio Republican Party leaders about his expected contest with former congressman John Kasich for the party's 2010 nomination for governor: "Butt out.''
Mr. Coughlin entered the race in February, but his campaign on a shoestring has been overshadowed by the informal candidacy of Mr. Kasich, a frequent Fox News pundit.
Mr. Kasich has been preparing for nearly two years by working the county GOP chicken dinner circuit. His speeches feature, among other points, a call for the elimination of Ohio's personal income tax.
On Monday evening, he will finally kick off his much-talked-about campaign with an outdoor rally at the historic Everal Barn and Homestead in his hometown of Westerville, north of Columbus.
Both he and Mr. Coughlin hope to carry the party's banner against Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in the November, 2010, election.
So far, the GOP's State Central and Executive Committee has endorsed no one in this race, but its e-mail system was used to forward e-mails to party members from Mr. Kasich's camp about his "special announcement'' plans and his request for a strong show of support.
In response, Mr. Coughlin yesterday fired off a letter to state party Chairman Kevin DeWine.
"Let the horses run,'' he wrote. "Let Ohio's Republican voters decide for themselves which vision for our state they prefer.''
Party spokesman John McClelland declined to comment.
"This issue is between the senator and the chairman,'' said Mr. Kasich's deputy campaign manager, Mike Hartley. "John's focused on working on a plan to get back the nearly 300,000 jobs lost under this administration.''
A Quinnipiac Poll of Ohioans this month found that Mr. Strickland was leading former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine 48 percent to 36 percent in a hypothetical match-up, and Mr. Kasich, who hasn't held public office since 2001, would trail 51 to 32 percent.
The poll did not ask about a Strickland-Coughlin contest, although a question relating strictly to Republican voters in a 2010 primary election found that Mr. Coughlin would get just 2 percent of his party's support for the nomination. That compares to 35 percent for former Sen. DeWine and 23 percent for Mr. Kasich.
Mike DeWine has made no announcement relating to his plans, although most conjecture has centered on a run for Ohio attorney general.
John Green, director of the University of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Center on Applied Politics, said the debate is never ending over whether party leaders should anoint a preferred candidate early to prevent a contentious and expensive primary election.
"Kasich brings some degree of name recognition and some experience in politics,'' he said. "He brings some credentials in terms of balancing a budget and fiscal conservatism. But he's been out of politics for a while. Coughlin has been in the process and is still serving, so he certainly has some credentials of his own. You could make a pretty good case abstract for either candidate.''
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