It’s official: Ohio Democrats now have four candidates declared for governor, three of whom are women. In an email to supporters, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she’s in the race for the open governor’s seat in 2018, vacated by term-limited, lame-duck governor John R. Kasich.

“I’m running for Governor of Ohio,” she said, adding, “And I’d love to be able to count on your support.”

Whaley has shown in previous remarks that shes not going to coddle Gov. Kasich, who is profiting from public exposure as he stumps around the nation to promote his new book about his experience losing badly in last year’s Republican primaries and caucuses, 49 of which he lost.

Mayor Whaley said serving as Mayor of Dayton is the greatest honor of her life. “But politicians in Columbus are taking our state in the wrong direction,” she said, noting that “Too many Ohioans feel invisible to Governor Kasich and his buddies. Republicans have run Columbus for 25 years, and they’ve run this state into the ground.”

Waiting in the wings as possible candidates for governor for Democrats are TV reality star Jerry Springer, former Congressman and Mayor of Cleveland Dennis Kucinich and, according to rumors, Marc Dann, an attorney, former state senator and short-lived Ohio Attorney General.

On the Republican side of the race ledger are Attorney General Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Congressman Jim Renacci.

Whaley appears eager to make a frontal attach on the Kasich years as years of overblown credit for programs and policies that have left Ohio lagging in so many critical areas. “Governor Kasich touts the ‘Ohio Miracle.’ But the truth is, the Ohio Miracle is really a Mirage. Ohio jobs have disappeared and the state has walked away from our local communities under Republican rule. Even Kasich now admits that Ohio has fallen into a recession,” she blasted out in a Monday email announcing her news.

Recounting her successes in Dayton, Whaley says shes “bringing back high-quality jobs, building on Ohio’s manufacturing base, and garnering national recognition as one of the best regions in the country for new businesses.” As Columbus lawmakers face the task of filling an $800 million budget hole Gov. Kasich created by giving billions away in income tax cuts to the wealthy, who need them least, Whaley says she’s “confident we can make things better in Ohio, too.”

As Ohio Democrats reflect on three terrible elections cycles, including 2010, 2014 and 2016, Dayton’s no nonsense mayor, like all good Buckeye politicians, think “Ohio’s best days are still ahead of us.”

“If you’re ready for bold new Democratic leadership for our state, will you add your name to support my campaign for Governor?” she asks.

Reflecting on Ohio’s opioid epidemic, the worst in the nation and one that Gov. Kasich talks about as if he wasn’t the governor for the last six years so he can escape shouldering any of the blame for inadequately funding remedies to it, Whaley points to Dayton’s path forward under her leadership to “declare a state of emergency that allowed us to institute a needle exchange program…I worked to ensure that all of Dayton’s first responders are equipped with life-saving Naloxone. And at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I led an effort to pass a resolution to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the damage they’ve done.”

While Gov. Kasich is out of state running for president or hawking his new book as national pundits contemplate whether he’ll make a third run at the White House come 2020, Mayor Whaley is promising to “be on the job day and night” because she gets it and gets things done.

In Ohio, 2018 will be more important than 2020, because the three critical seats that control the apportionment board—the panel that determines how legislative districts are redrawn after the 2020 Census is taken—are up for grabs. Republicans control the panel in 2010, redrawing legislative districts so egregiously that they have produced super majorities in the state Senate and House. If they hold on to the three key seats—governor, auditor and secretary of state—state Democrats could be out in the cold for another decade or more, and Republicans will likely compact two more Democratic Congressional districts that will force two Democrats to fight to the death, leaving Republicans will one less Democrat in Ohio’s Washington delegation.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for next year’s midterm elections, when voter turnout generally dips from turnout in presidential election years. Which Democratic candidate for governor will win out, and what that candidate’s message will be, will provide a test for Ohioans disappointed in what Gov. Kasich and his friendly Republican legislature has done on so many fronts, from taxes to education to local governments and schools.

 

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