As has been expected for some time, four-term Rep. Jim Renacci (R) announced today that he will enter the crowded GOP primary for Ohio Governor. The open Ohio Governor’s race seems likely to be the cycle’s most chaotic primary contest, on both sides. Renacci joins a titanic four-way collision with AG Mike DeWine (R), LG Mary Taylor (R), and SoS Jon Husted (R). He has a base in his suburban Akron and Cleveland based district, and independent wealth that will allow him to go toe-to-toe with his three statewide-elected rivals. Ideologically, Renacci seems to be trying to stake out a niche as the most populist/Trump-friendly candidate. Democrats are likely to see a crowded primary as well, with ex-Rep. Betty Sutton (D), State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D), and ex-State Rep. Connie Pillich (D) already in the race and many others considering.
As for Renacci’s OH-16, the formerly light-red seat has been trending right in recent years and had a PVI of R+9 in 2016. The mostly-suburban and exurban seat stretches from the southwest suburbs of Cleveland around the south and west sides of Akron, with small pieces of the Canton area and some rural areas west of Canton as well.
The most obvious potential candidate is one of Renacci’s gubernatorial rivals, LG Mary Taylor (R), who could easily drop down to this race and be the clear front-runner if she decides she doesn’t like the way her polling for Gov is looking. State Sen. Frank LaRose (R), who has been looking at an SoS run, could also find this race a greener pasture. Beyond them, State Rep. Tom Patton (R), a former State Senate GOP leader, could have strong institutional support if he runs, but an incident last year in which he said his opponent couldn’t be an effective legislator because she was a mother could come back to bite him. State Senate President Larry Obhof (R) and young State Rep. Christina Hagan (R) also look like potentially strong candidates. Cuyhaoga County GOP chair Ron Frost (R), State Reps. Scott Wiggam (R) and Kristina Roegner (R), and Wayne county commissioner Ron Amstutz (R) have all been great-mentioned.
Democrats will have a tough time flipping this seat but may make a play for it if they are serious about putting the House in play. Ex-Parma Mayor Dean DePiero (D) looks like the most serious potential Dem candidate, and he has already said that he will consider a run for the open seat. There is also a possibility that Sutton, who lost to Renacci in 2012 after her seat was subsumed into this one by redistricting, could drop down from the Gov race. But overall any GOP nominee will be a relatively strong favorite to hold the seat.