COLUMBUS — Ohio’s statewide field for 2018 already is crowded and raucous — a full year ahead of the traditional campaign high season.
Seven major-party candidates already have entered the governor’s race, with others seriously weighing bids.
If the current field holds, both Republicans and Democrats will see busy spring primaries to pick their nominees.
Down-ticket races for attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer and state auditor also are getting interesting.
A look at the current state of the race:
A pair of elected Republicans, Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted, are vying for the front-running position in the race to succeed GOP Gov. John Kasich, who’s term-limited.
Each has the bully pulpit of a public office, name recognition and about $2.5 million in the bank heading into summer campaigning.
DeWine, 70, is a former U.S. senator, lieutenant governor and county prosecutor. Husted, 49, is a former Ohio House speaker and state senator. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, 51, is expected to become the third sitting statewide official in the race with a formal announcement Friday.
Fourth-term U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, 58, of Wadsworth, cites his business experience in an effort to position himself as an outsider among career politicians as he faces a slate of better known competitors.
Women dominate on the Democratic side.
Former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, 53, of Barberton, served four terms in Congress before losing to Renacci in 2012 after Ohio’s congressional districts were redrawn. Other Democrats in the race are Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, 41; former three-term state Rep. Connie Pillich, 56, of Cincinnati; and Democratic state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, 38, who stepped down as Senate minority leader to seek the office.
Runs are still possible by former Attorney General Richard Cordray or Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, the Democrats’ only sitting statewide officeholder.
Also in the contest is Green Party candidate Constance Gadell-Newton, of Columbus, a social justice activist and lawyer.
All of Ohio’s sitting Republican officeholders are term-limited and seeking other offices. That provides political opportunities for aspiring Republicans and openings for Democrats after 2014’s bruising defeats.
Former U.S. Attorney Stephen Dettelbach represents perhaps Democrats’ best chance of regaining a statewide office. Dettelbach is running for attorney general against Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican.
Republican Keith Faber, a former Senate president who has returned to the Ohio House, is running against Zack Space, a former congressman, for state auditor.
Republican primaries are brewing in the other two state races.
Republican state Sen. Frank LaRose and Republican state Rep. Dorothy Pelanda are both running for secretary of state, as is Democratic state Rep. Kathleen Clyde.
Meanwhile, Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo faces state Rep. Robert Sprague for the Republican nomination for state treasurer. Former University of Cincinnati board chairman Rob Richardson Jr., a Democrat, is also running.
US SENATE RACE
Just when Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel appeared to be ramping up to an unchallenged rematch against Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Cleveland banker Mike Gibbons entered the fray.
Gibbons, 65, reported raising $250,000 in the first 24 hours after his announcement.
Mandel, 39, is a former state representative who’s been treasurer since 2011. He lost the race against Brown in 2012 after one of the most closely watched and expensive Senate races in the country.
Brown, 64, was first elected to the Senate in 2007, after serving seven terms in the U.S. House. He’s a former Ohio secretary of state and state representative.