Editor’s Note: As of March 13, former Rep. Connie Pillich announced her gubernatorial bid. As this announcement came after publication, her candidacy is not reflected in this article.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s term is up in 2018, meaning a new leader will be ushered into the swing state. At the end of February, current Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor announced her bid for governor in the upcoming 2018 race. Taylor’s candidacy has drawn fresh attention to the election and the concerns held by both major parties as this race approaches.
The Republican Party has already put up four candidates: Taylor, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci. DeWine is currently pulling in front in the polls, but Kasich has backed Taylor in her campaign.
Notably, Taylor was the only major executive official elected from the Republican Party back in 2006. However, since then, her relationship with the Ohio Republican Party has been tumultuous. Many on Kasich’s team are concerned that Kasich’s support of Taylor has already divided the Republican base. This past year, Taylor backed Jane Timken’s rise to the chair of the Republican Party in Ohio, unseating Kasich-backed Matt Borges, which has created a rift in the party’s leadership.
Taylor also has less fundraising going into the race than her opponents. DeWine and Husted both have about $2.5 million each from fundraising by state committees, as opposed to the $1.1 million Taylor has raised thus far. Taylor also does not have a state committee backing her after she stepped down from Onward Ohio, the PAC she previously shared with Kasich.
Meanwhile, Ohio Democrats face an entirely different problem: They did not put out any definite candidates until recently. Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni and Rep. Betty Sutton both announced their intentions to run in the past week. Multiple other names have been brought up, including Justice Bill O’Neill, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray, Rep. Tim Ryan, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former Rep. Connie Pillich, and former Miami Mayor Jay Williams, although none of them have officially announced their campaigns.
Some of this delay may have been due to the current Republican-led political environment in both Ohio and the nation at large. Defeats such as Ed Fitzgerald’s failed governor race in 2014 have left many Ohio Democrats feeling scorned. However, Schiavoni is positive going forward, saying Democrats appear energized to make a difference in spite of a Trump White House, although it is also important to heal some of the political divide in Ohio.
“I think there’s a lot of motivation for democrats to get more involved and also want to get educated. But also I think we need to have real discussions with people and try figure out what we have in common rather than what our differences are,” Schiavoni said. “What I mean by that is that it doesn’t have to be a fight every time you talk about politics. If that continues to happen, states like Ohio will continue to be divided and the country is going to remain divided.”
Schiavoni has been a long-time figure for Ohio Democrats, but many of the party’s other names pale in notoriety compared to those of the Republicans that may appear on the gubernatorial ballot. Despite comparatively low visibility, Schiavoni emphasizes that, at least for his candidacy, he’s focusing on relationships with possible voters, not on name recognition.
“Just because you have name recognition does not mean people trust you, know you, and believe in you,” Schiavoni said, “So for me every day is going to be a day where I’m in different communities working incredibly hard on building those relationships. Of course you have to fundraise as well, if you don’t have money, you can’t win, and I understand that. But you have to build relationships first.”