Yesterday, State Rep. Seth Morgan, a CPA, announced his candidacy for Auditor of State.
Additionally, the Dayton Daily News reported ORP Chairman Kevin DeWine is lobbying former Delaware County Auditor and current Delaware County Prosecutor David Yost to switch from the Ohio Attorney General's race to the Auditor's race.
Finally, as has been the rumor for a few days, Rob Montgomery is also being considered as a candidate.
Messy? Yes. A bad problem to have? No.
All three candidates are qualified and bring certain things to the table that must be considered.
Morgan is a conservative with the same CPA license as Mary Taylor when she ran for the office in 2006. That license helped propel her from the Ohio House to a win over a Democrat in a year that proved very tough on Ohio Republicans. It's fair to say that with a similar resume and a better political environment that Morgan could make the same jump. The problem? Fundraising. Morgan is in his first term as a State Rep and has yet to establish a decent fundraising base. Without question, if he is the candidate the Ohio Republican Party will have to carry a very heavy load in order to ensure he raises the funds necessary to win.
Montgomery has proven to be a reliable vote getter in central Ohio. As County Recorder, he's served admirably and has the resume that could translate well to the race. While I haven't had a chance to look up his fundraising history, I'm told he already has a good chunk of change available to kickstart his campaign and wouldn't need near the heavy lift that Morgan requires from the ORP.
Finally, we have Yost. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm quite a fan of his. He's a conservative with a fantastic resume that's perfectly suited for a race like this. While he hasn't had much success in the fundraising department thanks to DeWine's powerhouse presence in the AG race, Yost has been working and developing the relationships necessary where money would flow in quick and fast if he moved over to the Auditor's gig. Additionally, he's the only one of these three that has already developed a statewide network of GOP activists working to promote his candidacy. In other words, switching to the Auditor's race wouldn't need near the start-up time that Morgan and Montgomery would require.
Considering the political environment we're currently in, it's not a surprise to find several Republicans wanting to take advantage of the opportunity.
The problem for the Ohio Republican Party is trying to find its nominee much sooner than later.
Without question, a Republican primary for the Auditor nomination is something all Republicans should want to do without. Pepper is running without opposition. We don't want our nominee to waste all their resources on a primary that doesn't need to happen.
Furthermore, and as much as some may hate to hear this, it's in the best interest of the ORP to have a candidate that they feel would need as little heavy lifting from them as possible. Many don't seem to consider that the ORP isn't simply some organization of king makers. Instead, they are responsible for raising and spending millions upon millions of dollars to get Republicans elected - from John Kasich down to State Rep races. A candidate that is able to run and win their race with as little assistance as possible from the ORP is what's best for the Party as a whole. It enables dollars and manpower to be more evenly spread out, or focused on candidates that need the help, rather than on candidates simply looking to take advantage of a good political climate.
Now, if Yost does switch and Morgan backs out, that means Mike DeWine runs without a primary opponent for the Ohio AG nomination. For those viciously opposed to DeWine I say --- so what? As much as I like Yost, the political reality is that he faces an extremely high hill to climb if he wants to beat Mike DeWine. And like Brunner in her race against Fisher, there is no money to make the case to Ohioans that Yost is the better choice. Would a primary against DeWine be hopeless for Yost, no...but it's damn close.
Also something to take into consideration is a quote from Yost's spokesman in the Dayton Daily News when discussing the possible switch, specifically that Yost is “very seriously considering” the auditor’s race. My translation? Yost is likely interested in the idea, provided he won't have to primary against Morgan. So if he wants it, the last thing Republicans that support him should do is try to sabotage the process.
So what's best for Ohio Republicans? Yost for Auditor. He's the strongest candidate in a field of strong candidates.
Ultimately, Ohio Republicans shouldn't get too worked up about how this process works itself out. Fortunately, about 1% of the electorate, and that's an optimistic number, pays attention to the mess we make when building a good sausage. And unlike previous years, Ohio does have a solid slate of Republican and conservative candidates to choose from.
Finally, and most importantly, we have to remember that above it all, what happens at the top of Ohio's ticket will have a greater effect on the Auditor's race than almost anything that a legitimate candidate for Auditor may do. The GOTV efforts organized by both Kasich and Portman will be essential if Republicans want to swing into office on their coattails. And what helps those GOTV efforts? Money and manpower. The same money and manpower that shouldn't be used up unnecessarily on an Auditor's race.