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Capital News: Forget 2016; Let's start speculating on 2018 governor's race

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published: August 3, 2016 12:00 AM

Columbus -- This ugly election cycle is about to get a whole lot uglier, now that the Republican and Democratic nominees are no longer presumptive and can spend all of their time over the next few months bashing each other.

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton likely will do so frequently in Ohio, a must-win state for the next president of the United States.

And then there's Gov. John Kasich, who must wait on the sidelines for another four years before he gets another shot at the White House.

He won't be idle, though. The governor has already started campaigning and fund-raising for Republicans running for the U.S. House and Senate, even if he never endorses Trump (or mentions his name).

"I'm going to do everything I can to help House and Senate candidates so we can keep those houses of Congress/.," he told reporters on opening day of the Ohio State Fair, where he cut the ceremonial ribbon and did his usual tour of the grounds. "My interest now is that we keep the House and the Senate, down-ticket races, races in Ohio even at the local level and having a voice of positivity."

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Kasich's also has had meetings with publishers for a new book about Ohio and his vision for the nation, which is sure to include messages of hope and unity.

"I have a message of unity that's pretty darn clear and pretty well defined, and I intend to continue with that message," he said.

But forget the coming November general election and the 2020 presidential contest for a moment. Kasich could have his hands full pushing unity in two years, as he completes his final term in the governor's office.

There's a crowded field of Republicans waiting in the wings that's going to create a dilemma for the party faithful in 2018.

It's bad form for the candidates to be out in public discussing their gubernatorial aspirations this early, but three current statewide office-holders are in the mix: Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

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All three have been mostly mum on their possible campaigns, though DeWine was pushed to admit his interest after a reporter overheard him talking about it at an event.

Ask any of them outright, however, and they'll say something about waiting until after the November presidential election to talk about the future.

"I think it's premature to be talking about 2018," DeWine told reporters earlier this year.

Husted added, "That's a great 2017 question. This is 2016."

And Taylor: "Talking about who the next governor's going to be I think is a little premature."

I asked Kasich the other day if he had a preference on who followed him into the governor's office.

"You don't think I would answer that question," he said. "We'll see how it all shakes out."

But he made it clear he's loyal to Taylor.

"She's been my lieutenant governor and my partner, and we'll see how this all shakes out," Kasich said. "Mary's stood by me, I'd stand by Mary, but I think it's a little early to start getting into a governor's campaign. We'll see how it all merges. Those you think are going to run often don't and those that don't sometimes do."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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