Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is looking into a bid for governor, he announced today.
“I am exploring a run for governor because Ohio is falling behind and must do better," Cranley said in a statement. "For years Ohio's middle class has been shrinking under the weight of the state's failed policies. Cincinnati's comeback, population and job growth that buck Ohio's overall track record is a better way forward."
The Hyde Park Democrat has served two terms as mayor and is term-limited from seeking another. He's the first Democrat to announce his interest in vying for the chance to take on incumbent Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in 2022, though others are rumored to be considering bids as well.
Cranley, 45, has overseen a period of rapid development in the city with a generally moderate, business-friendly approach that has emphasized partnership between local government and the private sector. He has won applause from progressives and jeers from conservatives at times for his support for gun control, his declaration of Cincinnati as a sanctuary city for immigrants and his focus on green energy, including one of the nation's largest solar farms, while at other times sparring with more liberal members of council and city residents on the streetcar, historic preservation, development policy and other issues.
Despite his moderate politics, Cranley could face big headwinds in a state that has trended red in recent years. DeWine has thus far in his first term as governor avoided major controversies while playing middleman between the establishment and farther-right wings of his own party. Cranley would likely emphasize Cincinnati's economic growth under his tenure in a run against DeWine, as well has his ability to work with lawmakers from both parties.
The big jump from mayor to governor is rare, but not unprecedented. Former Gov. George Voinovich was mayor of Cleveland just before becoming governor in 1990, though he had previously served as Lt. Governor.
Cranley has plenty of local political experience and has run for higher office before. After growing up in Price Hill, Cranley graduated Harvard Law School and helped co-found the Ohio Innocence Project. He challenged U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot unsuccessfully in 2000, when he was just 25, before serving nine years on Cincinnati City Council. He won his first mayoral term against Democrat Roxanne Qualls in 2013 and overcame a challenge from then-Cincinnati City Councilmember Yvette Simpson for a second in 2017.