CINCINNATI — Ohio’s 2014 election took an unexpected turn Monday when a second Democratic candidate, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, announced intentions to run for governor, spurring a possible primary and annoying some Democrats.
“I am entering this because I feel a real sense of responsibility,” Mr. Portune said. “There needs to be a choice.”
“I believe that I am the candidate to lead our party,” Mr. Portune said. He said he has more experience, a strong record, and the demonstrated ability to win votes in the southern part of Ohio.
The decision by Mr. Portune will likely mean a primary against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, who announced his candidacy in April and has been raising money and racking up endorsements since then.
Mr. Portune, 55, has until Feb. 5 to officially file his candidacy.
Mr. FitzGerald has come under fire for choosing State Sen. Eric Kearney, whose media business is plagued with tax woes, as his running mate. Mr. Kearney, of North Avondale, withdrew from the ticket Dec. 10.
The winner of the primary will take on Republican Gov. John Kasich, who is running for re-election.
Mr. Portune said he has “heard rumblings” that forcing a primary will hurt the Democratic Party. But he said a primary campaign doesn’t need to be negative; candidates don't have to spend outrageous sums.
Mr. Portune said he has “grave concerns that [Mr. FitzGerald] will pull the votes in southern Ohio that he needs to win.”
Mr. Portune has represented southwest Ohio for 20 years, first as a Cincinnati city councilman, then beginning in 2000 as a Hamilton County commissioner.
Mr. Portune has promoted riverfront and other urban redevelopment, along with environmental, transportation, and public safety initiatives. He also has spoken out against the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals’ stadium deal with the county.
Mr. Portune did hedge a bit at the end of his announcement, saying that if he finds in the next 30 days that he has no real chance of winning, he won’t actually file.