Cordray's Resignation Ignites Talk Of Democratic Bid For Ohio Governor

Richard Cordray, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, appeared at the annual Labor Day picnic of the AFL-CIO Labor Council in Cincinnati on September 4, 2017. [Andy Chow / Statehouse News Bureau]
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Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray announced Wednesday he’ll step down from that post before the end of the month. As Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, that’s thought by many to signal that he’s running for Governor.

Speculation about whether Cordray would run for governor in 2018 has been just that – speculation. He hasn’t talked about it publicly because he can’t while he’s is in his post as the head of the federal bureau that works on behalf of consumers. State Representative David Leland, who is a friend of Cordray’s, says he doesn’t know if Cordray will step into the race.

“Rich has been an outstanding servant in the state of Ohio. He served in the legislature. He was elected as our state treasurer. He was elected as our attorney general. And so he’s won statewide election in the state of Ohio but more importantly than that, he’s been working for working families across the United States of America, making sure they are not being ripped off by banks and other institutions. And we need a person like that in Ohio.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper says if Cordray enters the primary, he will need to be vetted, just like the four other Democrats who have formally entered the race at this point.

“We feel good about next year about our candidates. Whoever the candidate is will be running to change things in Ohio and the Republicans will basically be representing the status quo that is leaving a lot of people out.”

Ohio Republican Party Spokesman Blaine Kelly disagrees, in a statement that recalls some of the language that Donald Trump used in his presidential campaign last year.

“Crooked Richard Cordray quit his bureaucratic dream job as the head of a structurally unconstitutional and unaccountable government agency in order to run for Governor here in Ohio so I don’t think this is going to fly with Ohio voters. Ohio voters know a swamp creature when they see one and just like Hillary Clinton, crooked Cordray can’t be trusted.”

Some of the four Democrats already in the race for governor are also critical of Cordray, who many see as the likely frontrunner if he gets into the race. Faith Oltman, a spokeswoman for gubernatorial candidate and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley says by leaving, Cordray is doing what President Trump couldn’t – undo the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau altogether.

“Trump and his administration are eager to unravel all of the Obama era safeguards put in place to help protect American’s wallets and Cordray is turning his back on the progress we’ve made.

Democratic candidate and former state lawmaker Connie Pillich was also critical of Cordray’s announcement.

“It’s disheartening and disappointing that my friend, Richard Cordray, would abandon his role of protecting consumers and turn over this critical agency to Donald Trump. Ohio working people can be sure that every decision I make as Governor will be about strengthening and protecting middle class families and not fueled by my own political ambitions.”

But Former Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni says he’s not worried about Cordray’s potential entry into the Democratic primary.

“Richard Cordray is another recycled candidate that people are sick of. I respect the work he’s done in Washington and as Attorney General but I don’t think he’s a good candidate for Governor this year. People want somebody new, somebody different, they want somebody who is going to inspire them.”

And Randy Borntrager, the spokesman for former congresswoman Betty Sutton, isn’t slamming Cordray for stepping down.

“Well, Ohio deserves a governor that will be a champion for middle class and working families because they need a chance to succeed. That’s what Betty Sutton has done her entire career and that’s what she will continue to do in her race for governor.”

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill has said he intends to jump into the race for Governor if Cordray doesn’t, but said he wouldn’t file paperwork till the deadline in February. There is no word on when and if Cordray intends to run. If he does, he’ll have to start the vetting process immediately to be part of the next Democratic candidate debate in Cleveland on December 4.  He’ll also have to raise money but many believe he can easily outraise the other four Democrats by using his national connections. 

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