In Ohio, there has been speculation for years that Republican Senator George Voinovich, the 72 year old former Mayor of Cleveland and Governor, would decline running for a third term in 2010--especially if Democrats were in charge. That political speculation appears to be on target. If true, Voino will join a list of three other GOP senators who are not going to run for reelection: Kit Bond of Missouri, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Mel Martinez of Florida.
Voinovich's decision will have major ramifications for the GOP in the Buckeye state. Voinovich is a popular moderate Republican who would have had a decent chance at getting reelected despite the current toxic environment for the GOP nationwide and in Ohio. It also means the GOP will be forced to defend an open seat and perhaps forgo a serious run at the Democratic governor.
The question now is, who will run? There are many possible contenders on both sides of the aisle. Here's a quick list off the top of my head--in other words, this list is not all-encompassing, just a first stab at the possible contenders in the horse race which will ensue.
Rob Portman. It's no secret that Portman has been gearing up to run for something in Ohio in 2010. He is the favorite, at least in my mind, to run and win the nomination. A former Congressman from Ohio's 2nd District, Portman has a bevy of White House experience in both the Bush 41 and Bush 43 administrations and has a network of donors to call upon. Let's see: former member of Congress (1993-2005), former U.S. Trade Representative (2005-6), former OMB Director (2006-7); yep, that's a pretty solid resume for someone running for Senate.
John Kasich. Another former member of Congress rumored to be interested in running for something in Ohio. Governor or Senator? Probably depends upon Portman's decision and Governor Ted Strickland's approval ratings. Kasich represented Ohio's 12th District for 18 years and has been in the private sector and a FOX News contributor and substitute host for many years since. A huge name in politics in the 1990s known for his fiscal discipline approach.
Kevin Coughlin. Those who live in Summit County are very familiar with Kevin Coughlin; those who don't live in Summit County are not--a problem for Coughlin when you consider the other big names on the board. Coughlin has served in the Ohio State Legislature since 1997 and will be term-limited out of his state senate seat in 2011. It's no secret he will be looking for a new office, perhaps in the Beltway. The U.S. Senate seat would be a logical progression though he may take aim at the governor's office instead.
Mary Taylor. The highest ranking Republican in the state of Ohio. Taylor won the auditor of state seat in 2006 against all odds and was the only Republican to win statewide that year. A very popular figure also from Summit County, her name recognition is likely higher than Coughlin's because of her current post and because of the generally glowing headlines she has received her first two years in office. The question is: will she forgo running for reelection for a job she thoroughly enjoys to take a stab at the senate seat (she is the first CPA to become Ohio auditor)? Nobody knows yet.
Lee Fisher. It has long been rumored that Ohio's Lt. Governor was interested in a U.S. Senate seat. In 1998, Fisher lost a close gubernatorial election to Bob Taft. Fisher had served previously as a member of the state legislature and state attorney general. He is a powerful Lt. Governor, simultaneously serving as Director of the Ohio Department of Development.
Tim Ryan. Tim Ryan shocked the political world in 2002 when he upset eight-term Congressman Tom Sawyer in a redrawn 17th District Democratic Primary. He went on to win in November to become the youngest Democrat to serve in the 108th Congress at the age of 29. Before that, he served in the Ohio State Senate. Ryan is part rock star (and is a huge Dave Matthews band fan), part policy wonk, and all charisma. He currently serves on the all-powerful House Appropriations Committee.
Capri Cafaro. Why Capri? Because she runs for Congress as often as I eat chicken wings (translation: pretty dang often). Cafaro is currently the Ohio State Senate Minority Leader representing the 32nd District, a seat she was appointed to to replace the infamous Marc Dann who had been elected Ohio Attorney General in 2006. Cafaro previously ran unsuccessfully against Steve LaTourette in Ohio's 14th District in 2004 and lost a multi-person Democratic primary in Ohio's 13th District in 2006.
Eric Fingerhut. The current Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, Fingerhut is a former one-term Congressman and longtime member of the Ohio State Senate. Fingerhut ran against Voinovich in 2004 and was defeated easily; however, the political environment has changed substantially since then. Fingerhut's resume and current position would make him a decent prospect.
Dennis Eckart. A former six term member of Congress (1981-93), Eckart retired to the private sector and is a frequent political commentator for WKYC-TV in Cleveland. His name always crops up at the mere mention of an open seat. If ever there was an open seat that Eckart would be tempted to make a run at, this is it.