Two of the four Republicans running in the party’s gubernatorial primary next spring have teamed up. Attorney General Mike DeWine will run for governor with Secretary of State Jon Husted as his running mate.
DeWine and Husted appeared together for the announcement of their team to their mutual supporters in two different places, first in the Dayton area and later in the day, in Columbus. They say they’ll be ready on day one to focus on jobs, education and the state’s opioid crisis. But DeWine isn’t saying what specific role Husted will play if the team is elected.
“I can guarantee you that Jon Husted will have a major role in this administration. But we are not ready to talk about that yet today.”
DeWine and Husted have been garnering a lot of support from key Republicans and groups throughout the state. Putting them together on one ticket potentially brings together that support. It also has the potential to hurt the two remaining candidates on the GOP ticket. But Husted says he doesn’t see this as a heavy-handed move that might be rejected by voters. He says it was a way to avoid a costly primary that would leave him and Dewine, "bruised and broken." And he says the teamwork demonstrates characteristics voters want.
“We’re focused on trying to solve problems and work together. That’s not only good for Ohio but it’s also a good campaign strategy because that’s what people want. They want us to govern. They want us to lead.”
Money isn't everything
But if the hope was to create a power team that would push their opponents to drop out, that’s not happening. Congressman Jim Renacci says the DeWine-Husted ticket is the status quo and not what Ohioans want.
“I intend to stay in this race for the people of Ohio. The people of Ohio are tired of career politicians taking this state in the direction they are taking it. They don’t want to just re-elect people who have been there for 60 years.”
Now that DeWine and Husted have combined forces, they’ll have about $9 million in their collective campaign warchest. Renacci has about half that much and most of it came from a contribution to his own campaign. But he says money doesn’t matter.
“If it was about money, Jeb Bush would have been our Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton would have been president.”
The race just narrowed?
Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor might agree with that. She’s has been trailing badly in fundraising; at the last report, she had less than a half a million dollars, compared to the more than $4 million each of her opponents had. But Taylor also says she’s staying in the race, and that she can win without spending as much as they will.
“I can tell you that many see this announcement today by my opponent as a combination of forces, but I see it as the race just narrowed and Jon Husted just dropped out of the governor’s race.”
Taylor blasted DeWine and Husted as two candidates who’ve been "running for governor since the time they were born."
Taylor was asked if she’d consider having Renacci join her team as a running mate.
“As a team we are still having a conversation internally with what we believe is going to be the best solutio. And honestly, I’m really looking for somebody who has the passion to serve, who shares my passion and who shares my values.”
Voters like choices
Though both Taylor and Renacci have been elected officials, they're running as outsiders. The leader of the Portage County Tea Party, Tom Zawistowski, says taking the two candidates who are polling the highest and putting them together on one ticket is not going to play well with voters who want choice in their decisions.
“It’s like the parties didn’t learn anything from what happened last year to Bernie Sanders who was cheated and how the ruling class donors continued their attempts to destroy Donald Trump.”
By DeWine and Husted combining on the ticket now, they avoid a lot of confrontation and division that could boomerang to hurt them in the general election next fall, when they take on whoever wins the Democratic primary – which right now is a four-way race and could get bigger.