Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has formed an exploratory committee to run for governor, the first step toward a likely bid against Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R).
"Do we have to settle for a state government that robs our communities, forcing cuts to police, firefighters and teachers?" he asks in a three-minute video announcing his new committee and a listening tour of the state. "Do we have to settle for a governor who wants to impose new taxes on everyday Ohioans while giving big tax breaks to those at the top?"
Kasich has proposed a budget that would cut the state income tax while expanding the reach of the sales tax; polling suggests that the plan is not popular.
FitzGerald, a former mayor and FBI special agent, is seen by many national Democrats as the strongest challenger against Kasich. The state party emailed out his announcement, a sign of establishment backing.
"Democrats will field a strong candidate in Ohio," said Democratic Governors Association spokesman Danny Kanner. "Clearly, Ed FitzGerald would be a strong candidate."
Another potential candidate -- should he fail to win confirmation as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- is former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray.
Kasich has struggled with low approval ratings and a bruising battle with unions in 2011. But he has rebounded in recent months. A recent Quinnipiac survey finds that 53 percent of voters approve of Kasich while 32 percent disapprove. The same poll finds him beating FitzGerald and Cordray, as well as Reps. Tim Ryan and Betty Sutton.