COLUMBUS, Ohio — Federal consumer chief Richard Cordray’s expected entry into the race for Ohio governor is bolstering many Democrats’ hopes for winning back some control in the bellwether state, even as others see his decision to resign the post as a negative for the party nationally.
Cordray, 58, resigned as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Wednesday, with an exit date before the end of November. He was one of the few Barack Obama-era holdovers in the administration of Republican President Donald Trump.
Cordray continued to decline comment on his political future when reached by The Associated Press on Wednesday. He has until Feb. 7 to declare his candidacy.
His likely addition to the race is viewed by many as improving Democratic chances to take back the governorship two-term Gov. John Kasich won for the GOP in 2010. The 2016 presidential contender is term-limited.
Already, a sitting congressman and three high-profile state officeholders — including 70-year-old Attorney General and former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine — are running on the Republican side.
Cordray has more statewide experience and name recognition than the five other Democrats running for the job. He also has ties to former President Obama, the Democrat who twice carried Ohio.
“I know a lot of people who said they were remaining on the fence to see if Rich got into the race,” said Jerry Austin, a retired Cleveland-based Democratic strategist. “I know a few people who made a commitment to another person in the race, but told them they’d shift over the Rich if he got in.”
But that was months ago, Austin said, and the other campaigns are now well on their way with policy platforms, debates under their belts and money in the bank.
At least one contender, Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill, has said he would exit the race if Cordray gets in. Three women — former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich — are among remaining contenders. Youngstown-area state Sen. Joe Schiavoni rounds out the current field.
Whaley, whose campaign said she’s staying in the race, criticized Cordray for leaving the federal post to be filled by Republican President Donald Trump.
“The CFPB has done good work to protect consumers, but by resigning Cordray is finally doing what Trump couldn’t — undoing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” she said. “Trump and his administration are eager to unravel all of the Obama-era safeguards put in place to help protect Americans’ wallets. Cordray is turning his back on the progress we’ve made and surely emboldening Trump and Republicans in Congress to dismantle this consumer watchdog organization.”
Pillich called it “disheartening and disappointing” that Cordray would “abandon his role of protecting our nation’s consumers by turning over this critical agency to Donald Trump.”
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