Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted made it official Thursday, announcing that Husted will drop his bid for governor and join DeWine as his running mate in the 2018 Republican primary for governor.
Both men have deep ties to the Dayton region.
DeWine said Husted brings experience, leadership, ideas and passion to the ticket and understands that the state’s two biggest challenges are education and the opioid crisis.
“He shares my vision of where this state needs to go,” DeWine said. “We share the same commitment to protecting our families, we share the same goals and we share the same optimism about the future of this state.”
Husted said he’s been traveling the state hearing Republicans say they are tired of intraparty fighting.
“Republicans have been fighting with each other long enough. Had I continued my run for Governor, Mike and I would have fought a brutal campaign that would have left the winner bruised and broken with only a few months to rebuild in time for the General Election,” Husted wrote in an emailed message to supporters.
“It’s time to work together,” Husted said at the news conference. “And that day begins today.”
The decision to join forces was made over breakfast Wednesday morning at the Columbus condominium of DeWine and his wife, Fran, who cooked bacon and muffins. Discussions between the two candidates about the merger of campaigns began about a week ago and Husted cut short a trip to return to Columbus for the breakfast, DeWine said.
“This is a power house team, a dream team,” said State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, after DeWine announced Husted as his choice for lieutenant governor during a news conference at the University of Dayton.
DeWine declined to say what prompted the discussion to join forces. When asked why DeWine took the top of the ticket, DeWine said “There’s a lot (that) goes into this. I think it’s a team that will work very very well. I think it’s a team that has the ability to really change things.”
The race for the GOP nomination also includes U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.
Taylor announced at a Thursday afternoon news conference that she will stay in the race.
“Ohio wants a governor who will challenge the satus quo, not accede to it,” Taylor said. “We won’t get there, however, with old and typical answers offered by establishment politicians, who are more comfortable being part of the system than challenging it.”
Renacci’s campaign also said the DeWine-Husted ticket is the status quo.
“Career politicians Mike DeWine and Jon Husted have joined forces to offer voters a ticket with over 60 years in politics,” Renacci spokesman James Slepian said. “If they think this what Ohioans are looking for, they’re running in the wrong party’s primary.”
On the Democratic side the announced candidates include Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron and Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill.
In an email to supporters, Whaley called the DeWine-Husted team a “nightmare.”
“If they win, it would be a decade-long nightmare for Ohioans,” she said.
Whaley’s spokesperson Faith Oltman said “Just what Ohioans don’t need. Another decade of bad ideas from two rusted Republican politicians who, together, have been running for office for nearly 60 years.”
Pillich called the DeWine-Husted ticket “nothing more than a coronation of the failed Republican status quo that has left our state broken.”
Similar criticism came from Schiavoni and Sutton.
Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who just resigned as director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is expected to join the Democratic race by next week. O’Neill has said he would drop out if Cordray got in.
Former Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer announced on Wednesday that he will not run in the Democratic primary.
Some observers believe Dennis Kucinich, former Democratic congressman and Cleveland mayor, will run. He could not be reached for comment.
Republican supporters attending the news conference were gleeful that two men with deep local roots had joined forces and said that if they win it will give the region a boost.
“I think the chance of the Dayton region having a representative in the governor’s office just went up,” said Chris Kershner, executive vice president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.
DeWine, who lives in Cedarville, began his career as Greene County prosecutor in 1977. He’s represented the area in the Ohio Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, was lieutenant governor and a U.S. senator.
Husted attended the University of Dayton, worked for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery County Commission before being elected to the Ohio House of Representatives the Ohio Senate. He also served as speaker of the Ohio House.
State Rep. Niraj Antani, who backed Husted early in the race says he’s now supporting DeWine-Husted.
“I think it’s a team that can’t be beat,” said Antani, R-Miamisburg. “I think Mary Taylor and Jim Renacci need to drop out and support this ticket.”
Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, called DeWine-Husted a “very powerful ticket.”
“Whoever the Democrats throw at these two will have their hands full,” Plummer said. “The game’s going to be on, and this is a strong team.”
Former Republican Gov. Bob Taft said the DeWine-Husted ticket reminded him of the 1989 primary, when he, George Voinovich and DeWine each ran for governor. Voinovich and DeWine joined together to craft a winning ticket for 1990, while Taft went on to become secretary of state.
Taft, a professor at the University of Dayton, did not rule out a competitive Democratic primary and general election challenge.
“There’s going to be a strong Democratic reaction after a Republican president is elected,” Taft said. “It’s a very strong ticket, but there could be a very strong Democratic ticket. It’s likely to be a very competitive race in Ohio.”
“I think there could well be a fierce battle on the Democratic side for who could be the nominee,” he said. “Mayor Whaley has been working very hard around Ohio. I don’t see any evidence that she or any of the other candidates will drop out or not be competitive just because (Rich) Cordray gets in.”
Kyle Kondik, a political analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said the DeWine-Husted announcement fits a pattern.
“There’s a long history of the Ohio Republican Party being a kind of ‘wait your turn’ organization,” said Kondik. “Apparently Husted decided it was better to defer to DeWine and get on board.”
Kondik, a former Ohio newspaper reporter and Cordray-era attorney general staffer, said Democrats are “more than capable” of winning the general election, but will need to focus on fundraising.
“I do think that the environment next year will probably be one where there will be a desire for change,” Kondik said. “DeWine and Husted have a lot of advantages, and money might be a big one with their own fundraising prowess and the fundraising prowess of the Republican Governors Association.”