Once again, last-minute maneuvering by the two major political parties will result in a “primary-free” gubernatorial election for Ohioans.
That’s too bad. In a state nearly split between conservatives and liberals, voters should have a say when picking a party’s candidate for such an important statewide race. More often, it’s state party leaders, not voters, who decide which candidate progresses to the fall election.
Contested primaries had once looked like a possibility in this year’s governor race for both Republicans and Democrats.
But the GOP primary ticket was cleared for Gov. John Kasich, who will be seeking a second term, when Ted Stevenot, a tea party favorite, dropped out less than a week after he had thrown his hat into the ring.
Stevenot had emerged as a likely challenger because some tea party faithful don’t believe Kasich has been conservative enough in his first three years in office. Names of other Republican candidates had also surfaced as possible candidates in recent months, but none moved forward by Wednesday’s filing deadline.
Stevenot’s departure leaves Kasich all alone on the GOP side.
Democrats, too, had been staring at a primary matchup, until last Friday.
That’s when Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune withdrew his bid to go head-to-head against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.
Both Portune and Stevenot have since suggested they would have liked to have taken their campaigns a step farther, but were not encouraged to by officials in their respective parties.
That’s not surprising. The clearing of the gubernatorial ticket before a primary is long-established political strategy.
Party leaders like to avoid first-round fights which can divide the base. Granted, Portune or Stevenot may not have had a realistic chance of winning their respective party’s nomination in May, but they may have broadened the discussion.
Contested primaries also tend to eat up campaign funds, money that a party would rather see devoted toward the more important battle in the general election. There’s no sense spending money fighting each other, right?
The early exits of Portune and Stevenot shows backroom decisions still dictate who makes it to the ballot, and who doesn’t.
Yes, there will be options for governor this year, in the fall.
Besides Kasich and FitzGerald, Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl will appear on the ballot. Perhaps an independent candidate or a write-in will also step up.
Unfortunately, voters will only get to weigh in once, not twice.
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