Waiting for the Democratic dominos to fall in the race for governor: Ohio Politics Roundup

The Democratic field for governor remains a muddle. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner finds inspiration in a crossword puzzle. Read more in Ohio Politics Roundup. 'Tis the season: Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper thinks it's time for gubernatorial...

Waiting for the Democratic dominos to fall in the race for governor: Ohio Politics Roundup

The Democratic field for governor remains a muddle. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner finds inspiration in a crossword puzzle. Read more in Ohio Politics Roundup.

'Tis the season: Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper thinks it's time for gubernatorial wannabes "to get on with it" already and make their intentions known. And though there are more than a dozen names in the mix, Pepper's remarks might be aimed at two or three heavyweights. Until these prospects decide, the mid- and lower-tier hopefuls are frozen in place. And would-be contenders will have a tough time becoming anything more than pretenders.

So here are a few of the dominos to watch in the coming days and weeks ...

1. Richard Cordray: Is time running out for the former Ohio attorney general? Under President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress, his job as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is on shaky ground. But Cordray's smartest political move is to dig in and fight, maddening as that may to his many supporters. Cordray for Governor works best if he can come home as the guy Trump and the GOP fired for being too tough on Wall Street.

If Cordray is unavailable, the door opens for others, including Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill. O'Neill has never been a favorite of party insiders. But his solid ballot name (in a nonpartisan race) helped make him one of only two Democrats elected to statewide office.

2. Tim Ryan: It has been more than a couple of weeks since the Youngstown-area congressman said he would decide in the "next couple of weeks." A spokesman tells me Ryan "plans to make an announcement one way or another soon." But expectations that he will run are low. He has passed on past opportunities. And though 2018 might be his best opportunity yet, Ryan has said that his young family and his comfortable perch in the House, where he was not punished after his failed bid to unseat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are factors in his decision.

Another Youngstown-area prospect, Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, is preparing to launch a campaign for governor if Ryan stays put. Others more likely to run if Ryan passes include Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, who is fresh off a stint as an assistant commerce secretary in the Obama administration.

3. Betty Sutton: The former congresswoman from Copley recently left her federal post as administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. And Democratic sources say she quickly has positioned herself to be the front-runner if Cordray and Ryan don't run. Regardless, Sutton's decision does not necessarily hinge on what Cordray or Ryan do.

4. Connie Pillich: No one started earlier than Pillich, a former state representative from Montgomery who has been gauging support for nearly a year. But some Democrats believe she ultimately will land elsewhere on the statewide ticket. If that's the case, it probably will be because one of the top three prospects above stakes a strong claim to the gubernatorial race.

5. The Bernie Sanders wing of the party: Many who supported the Vermont senator's unsuccessful presidential campaign were disappointed over the weekend by the loss of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, their choice for Democratic National Committee chairman. It's clear these populist and progressive activists want a seat at the table, and that means winning more elections.

They are encouraging Nina Turner, a former state senator from Cleveland, to run for governor. Turner has not ruled out a bid but says she is not participating in the draft effort.

Another option could be Dennis Kucinich, the former Cleveland mayor and former congressman who is known for his populist appeal. If that idea sounds silly to you, think about his name-recognition and national profile that might help him in a crowded primary.

Others to watch: The video at the top of the Roundup offers a comprehensive look at the field.

And, yes, it's early. To give you some perspective on timing, it was March 2013 when Ryan and Sutton announced they would not be candidates for governor in 2014. The eventual Democratic nominee, Ed FitzGerald, launched his campaign in April 2013. And ahead of the 2006 race, then-U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland didn't jump in until May 9, 2005 -- months after saying he wouldn't run for governor. Some Cordray allies see that as a potential deadline for him.

Republican reminder: Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor are all doing the things you do when you're running for governor. DeWine and Husted are in the strongest shape financially. Renacci, a wealthy former businessman, would run as an outsider in the mold of Donald Trump. And Taylor is positioning herself as the natural successor to term-limited Gov. John Kasich.

In other news ...

No Spice for LaRose: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has backed out of a Wednesday fundraiser for State Sen. Frank LaRose, a likely GOP candidate for secretary of state in 2018. LaRose blames a scheduling conflict for Spicer. But Politico's Alex Isenstadt, who first reported Spicer's withdrawal from the event, notes LaRose's past criticism of Trump.

"It is unusual," Isenstadt writes, "for senior White House aides to actively support candidates who have criticized the president, particularly in such harsh terms. It's unclear whether Trump, who has been cool to many Republicans who spoke out against him during the campaign, was aware of Spicer's planned attendance. LaRose ... had touted Spicer as the main draw for the event."

LaRose appeared to have patched things up with the Trump team. He handled advance logistics work for the inaugural festivities last month. "Sean's office contacted me saying he had to travel with [the president] Wednesday," he tells me. "That's it. End of story."

Moving up in the DNC world: Pepper was elected over the weekend as a vice president of the Association of State Democratic Chairs. Rhine McLin, vice chairwoman of the Ohio Democratic Party, was elected Midwest caucus chair for the DNC and secretary for the state chairs group.

"We congratulate Chairman Tom Perez, Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison and the new, unified leadership team at the DNC," Pepper said. "As we look to rebound in the near- and long-term, Ohio Democrats are energized to play a growing leadership role in the national party. Across all of our states, we're seeing unprecedented energy and enthusiasm at the grassroots level, and we're excited to share best practices and strategies on how to channel that energy."

Happening tonight: President Trump addresses a joint session of Congress. Ohio's lawmakers have chosen their special guests with politics in mind, cleveland.com's Sabrina Eaton writes. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat who also represents parts of the Cleveland area, and Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Columbus Democrat, are bringing people to rally support for the Affordable Care Act, which is in jeopardy under a Republican president and Congress.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown invited a pizza parlor owner from Columbus to highlight wage issues. Republican Sen. Rob Portman is bringing Teamsters Local 416 president Nicky "Sonny" Nardi, who appeared in an ad promoting Portman's re-election campaign last year.

Pressure points: Brown joined officials in Toledo on Monday to urge the president to keep his promise to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure projects, the Toledo Blade's Tom Troy reports. Brown promoted a plan that he and other Senate Democrats are pushing to "require the government to pay prevailing union wages and to use American-made materials."

Town hall madness: "So great is the desire of voters to be heard that when rumors flew last week that Rep. Pat Tiberi would be appearing at a local Rotary Club, protesters showed up," the Columbus Dispatch's Jessica Werhman writes. "Never mind that his spokeswoman insisted that the Genoa Township Republican was never scheduled to talk at the Rotary Club of Delaware."

Needles in the haystack: "Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's office has identified 82 non-U.S. citizens who have illegally voted in recent Ohio elections," cleveland.com's Jackie Borchardt reports. "The cases have been referred to law enforcement for further investigation and possible prosecution. ... Since 2013, Husted's office has identified 821 non-citizens registered to vote in Ohio and 126 who have cast ballots. None of those ballots were [found] in jurisdictions where races were decided by one vote. ... The registered voters flagged in the three reviews combined account for .01 percent of the 7.8 million people on state voter rolls."

Puzzled: U.S. Rep. Mike Turner of Dayton sees a New York Times crossword clue about the National Aviation Hall of Fame as "a national reminder of how important this Congressionally Chartered organization is to our community," the Dayton Daily News' Barrie Barber writes. "I look forward," the Republican says, "to hearing from the Blue Ribbon Panel and receiving their recommendation on how we can keep the NAHF viable for future generations."

The museum, Barber notes, "lost the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony in December 2016 after the board of trustees announced it was moving the event for one year to Fort Worth, Texas, in 2017. It marked the first time the ceremony will leave Dayton since it started in 1962."

Reed all about it: Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed, who is considering a run for mayor, is renewing his request to rename city schools after former President Barack Obama and Arnold Pinkney, the late school board president, The Plain Dealer's Patrick O'Donnell reports.

According to Cleveland Schools CEO Eric Gordon, the district has had many requests to rename schools. "He said he and staff have been drafting a policy and hoped to have one this spring, but extended contract negotiations with the Cleveland Teachers Union have delayed it."

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