Jim Renacci jumps into Ohio governor's race

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Jun. 10—After months of teasing a potential bid, former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci on Wednesday officially launched a GOP primary challenge against incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine.

Mr. Renacci, who ran nursing homes and car dealerships before winning a U.S. House of Representatives seat in 2010, made the announcement on a Cleveland radio station in the afternoon.

"Ohioans can't afford four more years of Mike DeWine as their governor," Mr. Renacci said in a statement afterward. "We have seen what failed leadership can do to a once prosperous state. DeWine's tenure as governor will be defined as the worst period in Ohio's long and rich history. Corruption, indictments, low job creation, shutdowns, rampant crime and more scandals — that is DeWine's legacy. He's more interested in being the Andrew Cuomo of Ohio rather than actually helping everyday Ohioans."

Mr. Renacci, 62, is hoping to tap into simmering discontent in the GOP base for Mr. DeWine, 74, who has received bipartisan praise for his pandemic response, including the state's new Vax‑a‑Million lottery. But he's gotten blowback from the hard‑right over mask mandates and business closures, which are no longer in effect.

After losing a U.S. Senate bid against Democrat Sherrod Brown in 2018 — a race in which he received former President Donald Trump's endorsement — the Wadsworth, Ohio, Republican has refocused on the 2022 gubernatorial race, targeting Mr. DeWine's pandemic measures and the state's business climate. Mr. Renacci began the 2018 cycle running for governor, but switched races after Josh Mandel, who reemerged this year to vye for Rob Portman's seat, dropped out.

"As a job creator and business owner, I know what it will take to bring jobs back to Ohio and ensure businesses stay," Mr. Renacci said in a statement.

Mr. Renacci has brought on Mr. Trump's one‑time campaign manager Brad Parscale as an advisor, but it's unclear whether Mr. Renacci can expect another endorsement from the former president to boost his chances against Mr. DeWine. Mr. Trump hinted after the election that he wanted to see another Republican take on Mr. DeWine.

Even with a base that moving further right, Mr. Renacci's challenge could be a long shot. An incumbent governor hasn't lost a primary challenge in Ohio in more than 80 years.

The Ohio Republican Party didn't immediately comment.

Joe Blystone, a farmer from central Ohio, is also running in the Republican primary. He was well‑received by conservative Republicans at a GOP convention in Strongsville, Ohio, last month. Neither Mr. DeWine nor Mr. Renacci attended.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley is the only Democrat in her party's primary to date, but Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is expected to enter next month.

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