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COLUMBUS — Now that the presumed front-runner, former Gov. Ted Strickland, has taken himself out of the running, the question becomes who Ohio Democrats will champion to take on their primary target of 2014, Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Despite a high profile throughout 2011’s fight over collective-bargaining rights and the 2012 presidential campaign, Mr. Strickland on Tuesday announced he would not mount his third gubernatorial campaign run in 12 years.
In a statement, the former governor and congressman said his 2007-11 administration was about repositioning Ohio in terms of its economy, renewable energy resources, expanded health-care coverage, and education while protecting the state’s social-services safety net. The economic recovery began on his watch in 2010, he noted.
“In short, I believe my administration stood and spoke for the causes that count,” he wrote. “Frances and I will continue to be politically active private citizens. We will continue to stand with working men and women to build a stronger Ohio — and to defeat anti-worker and anti-middle-class legislation that may arise.”
Attention turns to the next generation, a group of lesser-known Democrats. That list includes Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County’s first executive; Tim Ryan, the Youngstown-area congressman; Richard Cordray, former Ohio attorney general and now President Obama’s high-profile consumer watchdog, and Betty Sutton, a former Akron-area congressman.
“When the time comes, the governor will be very comfortable holding up his record of how Ohio has gotten back on track and has begun to thrive again in the past two years,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said. “There’s still a lot of work to do, however, and getting Ohio moving again will continue to be his focus until the last minute of the last hour that he’s governor of the state he loves.”
The unofficial 2014 campaign could be under way as soon as tonight when one or two on the list of contenders work the 88 county Democratic chairmen when they convene at state party headquarters in Columbus.
“Now that Governor Strickland has announced his intentions, strong Democratic officeholders that are prepared to hold this administration accountable for its anti-worker, anti-woman agenda that has unfairly skyrocketed local taxes can begin earnestly exploring why only 36 percent of Ohioans believe Governor John Kasich deserves to be re-elected,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said
Lucas County Democratic Party Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler said he believes it is time to look to the next generation.
“I’m glad Governor Strickland is possibly retiring,” he said. “I think he did an excellent job as governor, and I feel bad that he lost. But possibly a younger candidate would be better received.”
In a December poll from Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University, Mr. Strickland scored the highest marks for a Democrat among registered voters with a favorability rating of 41 percent. But that number was still lower than what he had registered during the heat of his 2010 election fight.
The same poll showed Mr. Kasich job approval rating has moved into positive territory for the first time at 42 percent even as 43 percent said he doesn’t deserve a second term.
“The governor turned this state from 48th [in job creation] to the top five,” Lucas County Republican Party Chairman Jon Stainbrook said “He’s made Ohio more business-friendly. There was less than $1 in the rainy-day fund [when Mr. Kasich took office]. Now it’s flush. Who wants to step in the ring with that?
“We’re a year out from the election campaign year when opponents start to assess what their chances are,” he said. “We just saw one of the top Democrats bow out.”
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said Mr. Kasich should be well-positioned for re-election in two years.
“This is typical,” he said. “Good governors are risk-takers who make difficult decisions — [Chris] Christie [New Jersey], Kasich, [Scott] Walker [Wisconsin],” he said. “These are the ones who are making innovations at the local and state levels on things the federal government can’t get its hands around.”
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.