Ohio elections chief Jon Husted joins 2018 race for governor


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted entered the race for governor Sunday, positioning himself in an announcement ad as a pro-gun, pro-family values conservative.

Capitalizing on divisive remarks that came back to haunt high-profile Democrats, the Republican says Barack Obama was right when he said Midwesterners cling to religion and guns and that Husted’s family “would firmly fit in Hillary Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables.'” Clinton used the reference in her presidential campaign against Donald Trump, whom Husted voted for.

Husted becomes the second Republican to formally join the 2018 gubernatorial field in what is expected to be a crowded race to replace GOP Gov. John Kasich, who’s term-limited.

Husted, 49, is a former state senator and Ohio House speaker. He’s in his second term as the battleground state’s elections chief. It’s a political hot seat nationally that’s seen Husted buffeted between criticism by voting rights advocates and by a fellow Republican president.

Husted instituted uniform statewide voting hours in 2012, for example, a move Democrats opposed as reducing the number of hours that had been available during the high-turnout 2008 presidential election. Husted argued the edict brought fairness and equal treatment to all the state’s voters.

When Trump alleged vote rigging in last year’s election, Husted strongly objected — assuring voters Ohio’s system was fair, safe and bipartisan.

In announcing his run, Husted highlights his opposition to abortion, which he traces to being adopted, his A-plus rating with the National Rifle Association and his role as speaker overseeing passage of one of the state’s leanest recent budgets.

Husted’s official announcement at the University of Dayton, his alma mater, is being followed by a campaign announcement tour across the state. Stops include Montpelier in northwest Ohio, where Husted grew up; Newark; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Chillicothe; Washington Court House; and Circleville, among others.

Husted joins U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, of Wadsworth, in seeking the Republican nomination. Two other Republican state officeholders — Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor — are preparing to join the race.

So far, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, former state Rep. Connie Pillich and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni are vying for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. More entrants from that party are possible.

On the Republican side, Renacci, 58, is also running as a pro-Trump conservative. He has sought to use his extensive experience in business to position himself, after almost seven years in Congress, as a Washington outsider.

Kasich has pledged he’ll endorse his own lieutenant governor, the 51-year-old Taylor, in her bid. Kasich is a leading anti-Trump voice nationally, which could draw moderate Republican and Democratic votes for Taylor in the general election if it doesn’t hurt her in the GOP primary.

The 70-year-old DeWine, a former U.S. senator with decades of political experience, will be presumed to be an early front-runner once he enters the contest because of his strong fundraising ability and statewide name identification.

Husted closes his video with a hint at his younger age, saying, “It’s time for new ideas and a new generation of leadership.”