Surprise twist as new Democrat joins Ohio governor’s race


COLUMBUS — A former infantry field surgeon-turned-venture capitalist who has made an 11th-hour entry into Ohio’s crowded governor’s race said Thursday his first foray into politics is a reaction to Republican President Donald Trump.

Jon Heavey, 42, of suburban Cleveland, was among the 2018 candidates who filed petitions by Wednesday’s deadline.

He’s among eight Democrats now officially running to succeed Republican Gov. John Kasich, who’s term-limited. They include former federal consumer watchdog Richard Cordray, former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, ex-state lawmaker Connie Pillich and former Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill.

The Republican primary will be between Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

Heavey has seeded his campaign with $1.5 million of his own money, but he said he’s been assembling a campaign operation and developing some “new approaches” to fundraising for about a year.

With degrees in medicine from Vanderbilt University and business administration from Yale, Heavey said he is uniquely positioned as an outsider candidate to take on Ohio’s most pressing issues. But emotion plays a role.

“I’m supposed to tell you I’m here to grow jobs and fix health care and alleviate the opioid crisis, and I do intend to focus on all of those things, but, truth be told for my motivation, I’m angry,” he said. “I’m upset with Trump, and I have an Irish demeanor and so thoughts become action, so that’s why I’m running.”

The Buffalo native said he didn’t take lightly investing $1.5 million in his wildcard gubernatorial bid.

“I’ve got a blue-collar background. I drive a Toyota Yaris with 125,000 miles on it, and I’m proud of that,” he said. “But I wanted to show that I’m serious.”

Heavey is participating in one of several primaries that were set by Wednesday’s filings. Ohio also will see primaries for state auditor and state treasurer — and a five-way contest is now in the offing among Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Sherrod Brown.

Candidate U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci is backed by Trump, with Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons another serious contender. Brown is unopposed in the primary.

Democrats have fielded candidates for all 99 Ohio House races, after a recruitment effort they say has been bolstered by energy among women candidates and general anti-Trump sentiments. Republicans, who control both Ohio’s legislative chambers, countered that say many of the Democrats’ contenders lost badly to GOP candidates previously.

Cordray embraced the competitive gubernatorial primary on Twitter Thursday as “good for voters.”

“As best I can tell, since we’ve had primary elections in Ohio, no Democrat ever has first been elected governor without having to fight through a primary race,” he tweeted. “Some primaries had 6 or 7 candidates. We’ll make our case and let the voters decide. As it should be.”

Cordray, who led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau until November, enlisted Michael Halle this week as campaign manager. Halle’s worked for some of the Democrats’ top campaign teams, including those of former President Barack Obama, 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

By Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press

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