We’re Going to Campaign like it’s 2018!

2014 Election Review + What's Next for Ohio

Last night, when all of the Republican statewide officeholders were declared victors in their reelection bids, the 2018 gubernatorial race quietly began.

Thanks to Article III Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution, not only is Governor John Kasich unable to run for a third term, but his statewide colleagues, Mike DeWine, John Husted, Dave Yost, Mary Taylor and Josh Mandel, will be unable to seek an additional term in their current positions in the 2018 election. While Yost, a former county prosecutor, is expected to seek the attorney general’s position in that year, there could be a crowded GOP field vying for governor in the 2018 election. Husted, DeWine, Mandel and Taylor could all enter the race. However, one of these four may opt to run against Senator Sherrod Brown that year.

Matt Borges, the Chair of the Ohio Republican Party, is likely to lose sleep worrying about avoiding a repeat of the 2006 gubernatorial race debacle where Jim Petro and Ken Blackwell collided in a vicious primary battle that resulted in Democrat Ted Strickland clobbering the Republican nominee and the GOP statewide ticket winning only a solitary seat thanks to Mary Taylor. Chairman Borges will no doubt work to persuade one of the statewide officeholders to oppose Senator Brown.

For the Democrats, the picture far less clear. John Carney appears to have been a relatively strong performer on the ill-fated Democratic ticket and this year’s effort was presumably not his last attempt at statewide office. Connie Pillich all but swept editorial board endorsements in her race, and Richard Cordray, due to his choice to stay out of Ohio statewide politics this year, may be well-positioned to return to Ohio. The next Democratic Party Chair will have a steep, uphill climb competing against four more years of name recognition and statewide experience and fundraising.

What this means to organizations and companies with long-term policy objectives?
The plentiful field of potential 2018 candidates for governor and the resulting uncertainty of who will be each party’s eventual standard-bearer means that organizations will have to work particularly hard to establish some kind of relationship with all potential candidates – briefing them on key long-term issues.

Federal Spotlight

The race to challenge U.S. Senator Rob Portman in 2016 has also begun. While it is unclear whether Portman will have any strong primary opposition, the race to be his Democratic opponent would appear to be wide open. State Representative Bob Hagan has declared his interest in being the Democratic nominee, but others are expected to enter the race. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty is rumored to be interested in running in a year that will, no doubt, have better turnout for Democrats than what we saw yesterday.

Key Questions about John Kasich’s Second Term

Will a White House bid be explored?
Despite Kasich’s denial on the gubernatorial campaign trail of being interested in running for president, there is no denying that many of his advisors would like him to run and that he was interested in being the POTUS when he briefly campaigned for the job in 2000. If Kasich begins the exploration process, an unprecedented amount of national attention will zoom in on his second-term policy priorities. If he listens to his advisors, his stance on every issue will need to be filtered through the perspective of Republicans who vote in presidential primaries. Issues such as the continuation of Medicaid expansion become laden with political landmines and will have to be handled with an incredibly high level of sophistication.

What will be Kasich’s “legacy” initiatives?
As evidenced by his passionate support for his only Ohio Supreme Court appointee, Justice Judi French, during this year’s election, Kasich values and will spend political capital on his legacy. What’s next? Will he be able to broker a deal with conservatives in the Ohio House that will further reduce the state’s personal income tax in exchange for beefing up Ohio’s severance tax that currently is at a rate remarkably lower than bordering jurisdictions such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia? Will he try to favorably position his steadfast Lieutenant Governor, Mary Taylor, to be the Republican nominee for a statewide position of her choosing?

Will he take a stronger stand on “moral leadership issues?”
One of the themes that Kasich explored during his re-election stump speeches was the need for state government to reinforce the state’s moral fabric. While for Republicans, the term, “moral”, has typically translated into the term, “socially conservative”, Kasich appears to be assigning the term a different meaning. He has garnered support from legislative leaders to tackle issues related to drug addiction and mental illness. And although specifics on this policy area are unclear, there has been some talk about trans-generational initiatives to partner Ohio’s college students with the state’s senior citizens. Organizations advocating for philanthropic public policy objectives may find a receptive audience in the Governor’s office.

What this means for corporations and organizations?

Corporations should be on the lookout for populist ideas. Some believe that the wrongdoings by the management of his former-but-now-defunct employer, Lehman Brothers, had an impact on Kasich. A second-term effort to target corporate greed or deceit would not be a surprise.