I’ve written several times about the importance of governors’ races in 2018. That is especially true in states like Ohio, where both houses of the state legislature are currently controlled by Republicans. In listing the top 10 governors’ races to watch, Politico included Ohio, where there’s no incumbent since John Kasich is term-limited.
In the Republican primary, the contest is between Attorney General Mike DeWine, who represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate until 2006, and Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, who is running as a conservative firebrand against the establishment DeWine.
There are currently seven candidates running in the Democratic primary. But the race is likely to come down to two of them. Richard Cordray, who served as Ohio’s attorney general before being tapped by Obama to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is a slight favorite. It should come as no surprise that Elizabeth Warren endorsed Cordray as soon as he entered the race.
The other Democrat who has a chance to win the primary, especially if the field remains so large, is Dennis Kucinich. For a lot of people, he is the progressive firebrand who ran for president in 2004 and 2008. But lately he has sounded more like a Trump supporter.
Kucinich, who has been a Fox commentator for years, praised Trump’s inauguration speech (you know, the “American carnage” one), and argued in February that U.S. intelligence agencies forced Michael Flynn to resign as Trump’s national security advisor. In May, he agreed with Sean Hannity that the “deep state” was out to get Trump, and in a July Fox appearance, he called Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskay “a bunch of nothing.” Kucinich has also repeatedly met with and defended Syria’s murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Since that summary was written, Kucinich went on Fox News to announce his candidacy. It’s one thing to reach out to Trump supporters with an economic message about tackling income inequality. But dismissing Russian interference, while echoing right-wing conspiracy theories about the “deep state,” is a whole different ball game.
Nevertheless, Bernie Sanders’s organization, Our Revolution, has endorsed Kucinich rather than Cordray. Here was my reaction when I saw that on Twitter:
Kucinich is to the Ohio Gov. race what Stein was to 2016 presidential race.
— Nancy LeTourneau (@Smartypants60) February 20, 2018
It is true that there are some major differences between Kucinich and Stein. Kucinich is running as a Democrat, rather than a Green Party candidate, and he has great name recognition in Ohio (hardly anyone had ever heard of Stein). But both of them have bad-mouthed the Democratic Party and embraced right wing talking points about the role that Russia played in Trump’s election.
As we learn more about how foreign actors meddled in our politics in 2016, the reality of a coming “blue wave” in 2018 is very likely to spark a repeat performance—perhaps even from domestic forces who embrace the same goals. The fact that Kucinich is positioning himself similarly to Stein is cause for caution, if not alarm.
In the Democratic primary for Ohio governor, there is an actual progressive in the race with a proven track record. That is why this endorsement is such bad move for Our Revolution—an organization that is increasingly viewed as divisive rather than strategic.