For the first time in 12 years the Ohio governor’s seat will be open in 2018 with incumbent Republican Governor John Kasich term limited.
“This has really been a long time,” said News 5 Political Analyst Tom Sutton of Baldwin Wallace University. “On the Republican side we've sort of had the heir apparents that have run and won. So we had George Voinovich, we had Bob Taft, we had some competition when John Kasich ran but because of the 2010 fiasco for most Democrats including Ted Strickland he came in with a relatively easy win.”
On the Republican side the race features current Attorney General Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Congressman Jim Renacci.
“I think there's still the advantage to DeWine in some ways because he is the senior member and probably the best known across the state,” Sutton said. “I certainly give Husted some advantage on that too and Jim Renacci.”
DeWine, Husted and Renacci as of their last campaign finance filing all had over $4 million cash on hand with Renacci’s coming in the form of a loan to his campaign.
“The only way he has an advantage, because he is not known statewide, is if he really gets that message out with that money about being a supporter of Trump,” Sutton said of Renacci.
“And that really then depends on whether that kind of support translates into something that will mirror what happened in 2016 or are Ohioans going to vote differently and maybe not vote as readily for someone because they align themselves with President Trump.”
Lt. Governor Mary Taylor trails her Republican counterparts in fundraising. She received the early endorsement of Kasich but Kasich has been less than enthusiastic about her stated plan to end the Medicaid expansion that the governor fought to put in place.
The Democrats feature Former Congresswoman Betty Sutton, State Senator Joe Schiavoni, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Former State Representative Connie Pillich.
“I think the Democrats really are counting on and need to count on the possibility of another wave kind of election like we saw in 2006, where Democrats including Ted Strickland got elected across the country because of reaction against what was going on with the Bush Administration,” said Sutton.
“If that happens again against the Trump Administration there's a chance that the Democratic candidate could win but short of that this really is a very heavy advantage for whoever the Republican is that becomes the nominee.”
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill has said he intends to announce a run for governor as a Democrat prior to the February, 2018 filing deadline as it appears other potential candidates like talk show host Jerry Springer and former state Attorney General Richard Cordray are not likely to enter the race.
"I think at this point the Democratic party really needs to coalesce around the candidates that have declared,” Sutton said.
“And for a party that claims to be very in favor of women's rights and women running for office they've got women running... and so with those three of the four being women to continue to wait for a couple of white guys to be running I think really speaks to a level of hypocrisy that will not help them with support that they desperately need."