CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Tim Ryan, whose national profile has risen in recent months, will not be a candidate for Ohio governor in 2018, Democrats who have been informed of his decision told cleveland.com Tuesday.
The eight-term congressman wrestled with a run for months, weighing the risk of jumping into a potentially crowded and unpredictable primary against sticking with a safe House seat.
His choice likely was made easier after he and his allies scored committee leadership positions despite his unsuccessful bid to unseat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last fall.
Ryan, 43, has not publicly announced his intentions but will soon, according to two Democrats who heard from him in recent days. Another Democrat said Ryan has been calling elected leaders, union leaders, party strategists and other potential candidates for governor to let them know of his decision. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because Ryan had not yet shared his plans with the media.
The decision is the first major movement in a field that has no clear Democratic favorite. Many party insiders believe Ryan, with his youth and blue-collar roots, could have been that frontrunner. Of all the times Ryan has considered higher office -- he looked at the 2014 gubernatorial race and the 2016 Senate contest, to name two -- this perhaps represented his best opportunity yet.
Ryan began telegraphing his thinking about three weeks ago when he acknowledged that his wife and three children and his desire to have a national voice factored into his deliberations.
Speculation will shift quickly to other Democrats exploring a run for governor. With Ryan out, Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, also of the Youngstown area, is expected to move quickly into official campaign mode. He has been traveling the state to forge relationships with key activists.
Three others have stood out to party sources as particularly aggressive in these early days: Betty Sutton, a former congresswoman from Copley who recently resigned from her federal post as administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., Connie Pillich, a former state representative from the Cincinnati area; and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
Another dozen names of varying interest and viability are in the mix. There's Jay Williams, a former Youngstown mayor who held several roles in former President Barack Obama's administration. There's Nina Turner, a former state senator from Cleveland whom supporters of Bernie Sanders' failed presidential campaign hope to draft into the race. There's even Dennis Kucinich, the former Cleveland mayor and congressman known for his populist appeal.
Then there's wild card Richard Cordray. The former Ohio attorney general now serves as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington. If President Donald Trump weakens the scope of the agency or fires Cordray -- actions favored by many Republicans -- Cordray would be free to launch a gubernatorial campaign. He would be a top-tier candidate.
Cordray's allies have been preparing for the possibility by handling political business that Cordray cannot tend to while he has the federal job. But these allies know time might not be on their side. Democrat Ted Strickland launched his winning 2006 campaign for governor in early May of 2005. If Cordray can't be available on a similar timeline, it might not be doable.
The early Republican field for governor is smaller, but super-competitive. Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor are all preparing to run. Gov. John Kasich, another Republican, is term-limited.
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