Democrats face a potential wrinkle in their campaign to unseat Republican Gov. John Kasich following Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune’s announcement Monday that he will run for governor of Ohio.
At a public press conference, Portune said he intends to mount a primary challenge against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, who previously looked like the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.
In justifying his announcement, Portune claimed he had heard “some rumblings” from rank-and-file Democrats to offer more options in the governor’s race.
“This is an honest effort to give Democrats choice,” Portune said.
Some Democrats might appreciate the choice following a scandal that threw FitzGerald’s choice for lieutenant governor, State Sen. Eric Kearney, off the ticket. Kearney withdrew after multiple reports uncovered he and his family owe hundreds of thousands in unpaid taxes.
But much of the Democratic establishment seems to have responded with contempt by portraying Portune’s announcement as an unnecessary hurdle in the 2014 election.
Likening the Democratic primary election to an internal family discussion, Portune denied accusations that a primary campaign would cripple the party’s chances of winning the gubernatorial election.
“Primaries allow you to talk about the issues. They generate momentum,” he said.
Several Democrats took to social media to publicly disapprove of Portune’s announcement.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern tweeted that he’s “excited about our endorsed Democrats,” meaning FitzGerald.
Cincinnati council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld also restated on Twitter that they will support FitzGerald for governor.
“Todd Portune has been a client and someone I've admired for a long time,” Seelbach wrote. “But the last thing we need is a divisive primary.”