Race for governor shaping up

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Cuyahoga County executive Ed FitzGerald, the Ohio Democratic Party-endorsed candidate for governor and presumed Democratic nominee to challenge Kasich this year, now find themselves looking at primary election challengers in May.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, a Democrat, and Tea Party conservative Ted Stevenot, also from the Cincinnati area, announced last week their intentions to seek their party’s nominations.

Portune said he plans to travel Ohio over the next few weeks to measure support for his candidacy before finally deciding if he’ll run.

Stevenot, former president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, meanwhile, plans to make a formal announcement Tuesday in Columbus.

Portune’s entry into the race muddies the path for FitzGerald, who’s now looking at spending precious campaign money against, and time on, another Democrat, rather than focusing his cash and energy on Kasich in November’s general election.

Stevenot’s entry is less of a distraction to Kasich than Portune’s is to FitzGerald, although, FitzGerald is still likely a lock to win the Democratic nomination.

Although some conservatives might be turned off by the governor’s successful attempt to expand Medicaid in Ohio under the federal and Democrat-backed Affordable Care Act, Kasich, a top Republican in Ohio, has a well-funded campaign account – $4.4 million according to the last campaign finance report filed in July – and a stout base of supporters.

But this is all assuming that Portune and Stevenot make it to the ballot. They need to collect 1,000 valid petition signatures. The filing deadline is Feb. 5.

FitzGerald, by the way, has about $540,000 in his campaign account, according to a report from the same time period.

On Tuesday, Kelly Pallante, director of the Trumbull County Board of Elections, and Jodi Fiorenzo Dibble, deputy director, will present to board members the initial results of an examination of Trumbull County’s 208 voting precincts and suggestions on where to reduce that number.

The rules from the board were considered consolidation only in instances where the new, proposed precincts did not exceed 1,100 registered voters and splitting the precinct is avoided. There must be adequate facilities in the new precinct to house the polling locations.

The two had until this month to present the findings to the board. Whatever the board agrees on won’t be implemented until January 2015.