Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine made it official Thursday that he is running for governor in 2018.
DeWine — a former Greene County prosecutor, state lawmaker, congressman, lieutenant governor and U.S. senator — let his plans slip during a conversation with a Dayton charter school executive. His run was expected yet unconfirmed in Republican circles for a long time.
“I’d like your ideas,” DeWine said, extending his personal email address to Summit Academy Schools CEO Barbara Danforth. “There’s not much I can do about it now, but I’m going to run for governor in two years.”
Danforth, a former state of Iowa assistant attorney general and registered Democrat from Cleveland, had just told DeWine about a need for charter schools to work more closely with the Ohio Department of Education.
The 68-year-old DeWine’s comment was made in the earshot of a reporter from this newspaper who asked him to confirm what he said.
“Well, I told her that confidentially,” DeWine said with a slight smile, insisting it was not an official announcement.
“But, I did indeed. Yes, I did,” he said.
The confirmation of his long-expected political ambitions came bookended between other news:
- DeWine plans to spend all of today reviewing evidence in the murders of eight Pike County residents — the investigation, he said, is like “a 1,000 piece puzzle.”
- He also said he has not ruled out suing the Obama administration regarding a controversial directive urging public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom facilities of their gender identity. “I stand ready — if they’re really serious about this and they’re going to come in and force their rules and regulations with some school in the state of Ohio – I stand ready to defend that school,” DeWine said. “How far have we come when who goes into a bathroom, who goes into a locker room decisions are being made by some bureaucrat in Washington, D.C.?”
- DeWine also weighed in on the suggestion by Auditor Dave Yost that the Ohio Department of Education should be split up following a poor showing on a surprise attendance check. “It was interesting to hear his comments and I’m looking at that, and we’ll see,” DeWine said of the agency Yost called possibly the “worst-run” in Ohio.
Democrats, spinning DeWine’s gubernatorial comment as a jump of the gun, said DeWine should stick to his current job.
“It’s time for DeWine to drop the campaign talk, advise his legal clients (the governor, legislature and secretary of state) on how to stop violating the constitutional rights of Ohio citizens and focus on the job Ohioans elected him to do,” said Ohio Democratic Party spokesperson Kirstin Alvanitakis.
And DeWine’s fellow Republicans — two of whom have been tossed around as potential candidates to replace term-limited Gov. John Kasich — focused on their jobs, too.
“Any announcement on a 2018 run for governor will come after Secretary Husted has finished the important work of the 2016 election cycle,” said Josh Eck, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, the state’s top elections official.
A spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, also floated as a potential candidate to succeed her boss as governor, did not comment on DeWine’s remarks.
If each of the three were to enter the Ohio governor’s race, it would set the stage for a Republican primary unlike many in recent memory.
DeWine is liked among Kasich’s team, said Cedarville University political science professor Mark Caleb Smith. He acknowledged the entry of Taylor into the race could make supporters choose sides.
“It would complicate things. It might cause some friction among some parts of the party,” the professor said. “Thinking about why he said this, he may have said it to discourage others from getting into the race.”
Democrats mentioned as possible candidates for governor include former Attorney General Richard Cordray, now service as President Barack Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director, and Congressman Tim Ryan of Niles, near Youngstown.
For years, this newspaper has followed Mike DeWine’s political career — from Greene County to Columbus and Washington, D.C. — and was the first in Ohio to break the news about his 2018 bid for governor.