And the first Democrat running for governor is...

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Senate's top Democrat, Joe Schiavoni, became the first in his party officially to announce a bid for governor Wednesday.

The announcement from the Youngstown-area Democrat comes one day after a higher-profile Mahoning Valley Democrat, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, said he wouldn't run. Schiavoni likely will have company in the race; Democrats have a wide field of possible contenders.

Here's what Schiavoni brings to the governor's race – and what he would have to overcome to win.

The cons

1. Schiavoni who?

The 37-year-old lawmaker and attorney was first appointed to the Ohio Senate in 2008 and has led Democrats there since 2013. Currently, that means overseeing nine members (including himself) in a 33-member chamber. Democrats have little power in the Ohio Senate, so Schiavoni has little opportunity to improve his poor name recognition.

Schiavoni is well-known in the Youngstown area, where he was the chief opponent of Gov. John Kasich's plan to take control of failing area schools. He also championed speedier notification of residents when their water has high lead levels – a problem in Sebring. While those causes gained him support close to home, they did little to garner statewide attention.

2. All about the Benjamins

While GOP hopefuls like Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted stash millions in their campaign accounts, Schiavoni has a measly $39,400 on hand.

That figure is low, in part, because he donated $180,000 last year to Senate Democrats and thousands more to the campaigns of Democrats up and down the 2016 ticket. And donors know that Democrats don't control the Ohio Senate, so they're less likely to give Schiavoni money. In contrast, Senate President Larry Obhof, a Republican, has $131,200 on hand.

A key for any Democratic candidate will be proving you can raise money, but Schiavoni's fundraising prowess, or lack thereof, is untested.

3. He's not the party's top pick

Many Democratic faithful would prefer someone else top the party's ticket, rather than Schiavoni, who has never run a statewide race. Take former Congresswoman Betty Sutton, of Summit County, who said she'll make a decision on the governor's race next week. Or former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who is directing the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

"I am not a career politician, and I'm not going to be the anointed candidate. But I am a fighter, the fighter that Ohio needs," Schiavoni said in a statement Wednesday morning.

The pros

1. Do the hustle

Schiavoni has been hustling across Ohio to meet with Democrats from Cleveland to Columbus.

"I will work harder than anyone, visit every part of the state and meet with every Ohioan I can until I win," he said. That should help with his name recognition and his fundraising.

2. Popular in Trump Country

President Donald Trump won parts of Ohio that Democrats considered safe for years. Trump nearly defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Youngstown's Mahoning County and did beat her in all surrounding Ohio counties. As a candidate, Trump visited Youngstown multiple times to appeal to the white, working-class voters there.

Democrats need to reclaim that area to win the governor's race in 2018, and Schiavoni knows those voters well. He won the Mahoning Valley district with 56.7 percent of the vote in 2010 and ran uncontested in 2014.

Cincinnati Enquirer


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