Local politics: Handicapping the Ohio gubernatorial race

Andy Downing
Mike DeWine

With May's primary quickly approaching, the race for the next governor of Ohio is starting to come into focus.

Earlier this month, fundraising numbers were released, showing Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine with a huge financial edge in the race, with more than $10.5 million cash on hand. Democratic contender and ex-Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray stands next closest in terms of fundraising, with more than $2 million.

Not surprisingly, the two are currently favored to win their respective primaries and square off in November's general election. With a few months to go before primaries, however, there's still time for a shakeup, so we reached out to longtime (and now retired) Democratic strategist Jerry Austin to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each ticket, as well as choose a way-too-early favorite to win the election.

DeWine/Jon Husted (R)

Strength: Experience. “The selling point is we've been there and done that and are ready for this new task, and we have the money to back it up.”

Weakness: “The vulnerability is what many people would call their strength: They've been around a long time. … Do younger Republicans look to … someone like Mary Taylor, who's younger, female and fairly dynamic in terms of her presentation?”

Mary Taylor/Nathan Estruth (R)

Strength: “[In addition to being a woman] she's also positioning herself the farthest to the right, playing to the Republican primary voter, who is more conservative than the Republican general election voter.”

Weakness: Ability to raise funds, and the potential that her Trump-like positions could turn off some primary voters.

Cordray/Betty Sutton (D)

Strength: Experience on the state, local and federal level, and a fundraising ability other Democratic candidates have not shown up to this point.

Weakness: Cordray's experience in Washington, D.C. could be viewed as a positive or negative.

Connie Pillich/Scott Schertzer (D)

Strength: “Being the only female in the race with four males, is that an angle to give her enough [traction] to win a primary?”

Weakness: As with most candidates beyond DeWine and Cordray, fundraising ability remains an open question.

Dennis Kucinich/Tara Samples (D)

Strength: Kucinich still has strong name recognition.

Weakness: At the same time he hasn't run for statewide office since 1982. Also, could his association with Fox News as a contributor hurt him with Democratic voters?

Bill O'Neill/Chantelle Lewis (D)

Strength: O'Neill could draw attention with his unpredictability. “Who knows what he's going to say because he doesn't know what he's going to say.”

Weakness: This unpredictability can also lead to exchanges that turn off voters, such as a sexually charged November 2017 Facebook post that led the former Supreme Court justice to issue an apology.

Joe Schiavoni/Stephanie Dodd (D)

Strength: “He's a young, energetic, hardworking guy. Everybody likes Joe.”

Weakness: Inexperience and a lack of funds. “He has to get on TV like everyone else. Where does the money come from?”

Most likely general election opponents: DeWine/Husted v. Cordray/Sutton

Way-too-early prediction: “I'd say DeWine/Husted would be considered the early leader. … I think it will be a competitive race, and it may be based on Trump. What are his numbers? And will those numbers affect the statewide races in Ohio? I think they will.”