The already-large field of candidates running for Ohio governor next year could soon grow even more. Former Ohio attorney general and Grove City native Richard Cordray said on Wednesday that he's leaving the top post at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
That announcement drew quick criticism from both Ohio Republicans and some of Cordray's potential Democratic rivals.
Speculation about whether Cordray would run for governor in 2018 has been just that: speculation. He hasn’t talked about it publicly, at least in part because he’s banned from doing so by federal law because of his current job.
State Rep. David Leland, who is a friend of Cordray’s, says he doesn’t know if Cordray will step into the race.
“Rich has been an outstanding servant in the state of Ohio,” Leland says. “He served in the legislature. He was elected as our state treasurer. He was elected as our attorney general. And so he’s won statewide election in the state of Ohio but more importantly than that, he’s been working for working families across the United States of America, making sure they are not being ripped off by banks and other institutions. And we need a person like that in Ohio.”
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper says if Cordray enters the primary, he will need to be vetted, just like the four other Democrats who have formally entered the race at this point.
“We feel good about next year about our candidates," Pepper says. "Whoever the candidate is will be running to change things in Ohio, and the Republicans will basically be representing the status quo that is leaving a lot of people out.”
Republicans may be in charge here in Ohio, but Ohio Republican Party spokesperson Blaine Kelly says Cordray is the establishment candidate.
“Crooked Richard Cordray quit his bureaucratic dream job as the head of a structurally unconstitutional and unaccountable government agency in order to run for governor here in Ohio, so I don’t think this is going to fly with Ohio voters,” Kelly said. “Ohio voters know a swamp creature when they see one and just like Hillary Clinton, Crooked Cordray can’t be trusted.”
The criticism from the left was much more toned-down, but still came shortly after Cordray said he was leaving the CFPB.
Faith Oltman, a spokeswoman for gubernatorial candidate and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, says by leaving his job, Cordray is helping President Trump dismantle the agency that’s been the target of so much Republican ire.
“Trump and his administration are eager to unravel all of the Obama era safeguards put in place to help protect American’s wallets, and Cordray is turning his back on the progress we’ve made," Oltman said.
Those concerns were echoed by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Connie Pillich, who called Cordray’s decision to “abandon his role of protecting consumers” both “disheartening and disappointing.”
“Ohio working people can be sure that every decision I make as Governor will be about strengthening and protecting middle class families and not fueled by my own political ambitions,” Pillich said.
But former Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, another Democratic candidate for governor, says he’s not worried that Cordray could now potentially enter the race.
“Richard Cordray is another recycled candidate that people are sick of,” Schiavoni said. “I respect the work he’s done in Washington and as Attorney General, but I don’t think he’s a good candidate for governor this year. People want somebody new, somebody different, they want somebody who is going to inspire them.”
Unlike the other three announced candidates, a spokesman for Betty Sutton steered clear of criticizing Cordray.
“Well, Ohio deserves a governor that will be a champion for middle class and working families because they need a chance to succeed,” spokesman Randy Borntrager said. “That’s what Betty Sutton has done her entire career and that’s what she will continue to do in her race for governor.”
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill has said he intends to jump into the race for governor, but said he wouldn’t file paperwork till the deadline in February.
O’Neill has also said he’d drop out of the race if his friend Cordray entered.
If Cordray does run for governor, things will have to move quickly. He’ll have to start the vetting process immediately to be part of the next Democratic candidate debate in Cleveland on December 4.
He’ll also have to raise money, but many believe he can easily outraise the other four Democrats by using his national connections.
On the Republican side, Cordray would likely face stiffer competition, both in terms of fundraising and name recognition, from well-known candidates like Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, and Congressman Jim Renacci.