CLEVELAND -- "Is it too late to enter the Ohio governor's race?" Jerry Springer asked Cleveland Democrats gathered in a state lawmaker's home last week.
Springer, a former Cincinnati mayor and tabloid talk show host, wanted feedback from Sen. Sandra Williams, a leader in the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party; and Democratic Reps. Janine Boyd and Stephanie Howse. Springer is talking with political consultants and polling the race but hasn't decided whether he'll enter the crowded gubernatorial field.
"I don’t think it’s too late for him to get into the race," Williams told The Enquirer.
Many unions and Democratic leaders have withheld their endorsements from the four current candidates until the field is set. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rich Cordray might enter the race as well.
Springer has two assets that other Democrats in the race sorely lack: Name recognition and money. Former state Rep. Connie Pillich, of Montgomery, led the Democrats in fundraising, but her haul was easily dwarfed by the $4 million-plus that three Republican contenders have on hand.
"He has one thing that the others all crave and that’s name recognition. Everyone knows who Jerry Springer is," Democratic political consultant Bill DeMora said.
Springer has denied any plans to run for governor in the past. He has also considered a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives, challenging Republican incumbent Brad Wenstrup. Democrats say Springer hasn't yet made up his mind. The Enquirer reached out to Springer Wednesday for comment.
After his consultation with the Democratic lawmakers, Springer spoke to a packed crowd at Nighttown, a Cleveland Heights jazz club and restaurant. Springer did not mention his gubernatorial aspirations in his 15-minute speech, instead focusing on encouraging the party faithful to have a message that appeals to Democratic values, Williams said.
Williams said Springer was well-received by the crowd, which was gathered for a fundraiser for Howse and Boyd, two sophomore legislators.
Springer will return to Cleveland Monday for Service Employees International Union 1199's Labor Day rally, leading some Democrats to speculate that he is seeking the union's endorsement. He also plans to attend U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge's picnic later that day.
Springer's fundraising prowess has benefitted Hamilton County Democrats for years. He has also been a regular speaker at events, including several gatherings for Democrats in other states during the Democratic National Convention.
"If Jerry decides to run for public office, I will do everything I can to support his candidacy," said Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke. (Burke worked for Springer as a legislative assistant when Springer was on Cincinnati City Council.)
"Jerry is also a tremendous speaker and has the ability to really motivate a crowd," Burke said.
Springer's tough talk has been compared to another television star turned politician: President Donald Trump.
"I could be Trump without the racism," Springer told The Enquirer in February.
Jason Williams contributed to this article.