Toledo Councilman Jack Ford is being courted as a possible running mate for Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune should the latter become a Democratic Party candidate for Ohio governor.
Mr. Ford, 66, met Wednesday night at a restaurant in Lima with Mr. Portune, who confirmed his interest in Mr. Ford. Both said they were still in discussions and had not made commitments to run as a team.
Mr. Portune would battle Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for the Democratic nomination to run against incumbent Gov. John Kasich, the presumptive Republican nominee. The filing deadline is Feb. 5, and Mr. Portune needs a running mate before he can begin gathering the necessary 1,000 signatures of Democrats or nonaffiliated voters.
“He just called me and said, ‘I’d like to talk to you,’ ” Mr. Ford said Wednesday. “I’ll talk to anybody about politics. We’re going to meet and explore what he’s trying to do.”
Mr. Portune said Mr. Ford is at the top of his list of possible running mates.
Mr. FitzGerald has been endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party and has a big head start, having already made repeated campaign stops in Lucas County and around Ohio.
“He’s one of the most respected elected officials in the state of Ohio. Jack is not the only person that I am speaking with. He certainly is at the top of the class. He should have been everybody’s No. 1,” Mr. Portune said earlier in the day.
“I’m encouraged by the conversation we’ve had, and we’re going to meet again,” Mr. Portune said after their meeting Wednesday.
Mr. Ford was Toledo’s first African-American mayor and is a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives, including service as House minority leader. He is a part-time instructor at the University of Toledo and was elected back to city council in November.
Former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said he discussed the possible candidacy with Mr. Ford.
“It’s a terrific honor to be asked by a candidate for governor to be his running mate,” Mr. Finkbeiner said. “It would probably be a 90-day opportunity for his vision, tied to that of Todd Portune, to be heard and seen across the state of Ohio. The reality is that at the end of the 90 days, the party is going to line up overwhelmingly behind Ed.”
The primary election is May 6.
Mr. Ford worked 12 years for the state’s departments of youth services and mental health before he was hired by the Lucas County Mental Health Board as director of substance abuse planning in 1980.
Mr. Ford said he believes his health would not prohibit a statewide run. He undergoes dialysis three times a week, but said his health and energy level are better now than they have been since he became seriously ill three years ago.
He said his main interest in running would be to gain attention for things that have been done in Toledo that could be replicated in Ohio, including CareNet, a health-care program for uninsured people that he pioneered as mayor from 2002 to 2006.
Mr. Ford said a run against Mr. FitzGerald would be a David-versus-Goliath challenge, but taking on a party-endorsed candidate did not worry him.