TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Two Ohio Democrats seeking their party’s nomination in bids to end Republican dominance of the governor’s office announced their running mates Wednesday, one a veteran state lawmaker and the other a community leader who’s largely unknown around the state.
Former Dayton mayor Nan Whaley picked Cuyahoga County Council member Cheryl Stephens, who has spent much of her career in neighborhood economic development and is a former mayor of Cleveland Heights.
John Cranley, a former Cincinnati mayor, selected state Sen. Teresa Fedor, who made a name for herself in the legislature by leading the fight against human trafficking and speaking out for abortion rights.
The dueling announcements bring two new faces and diversity to the governor’s race with just four months to go before the May primary election.
Whaley is trying to become the first woman elected governor in Ohio while Stephens would be the first Black woman elected lieutenant governor.
Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who is seeking a second term, is facing a primary challenge from former GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Joe Blystone, a farmer from central Ohio.
Republicans have controlled the state’s top elected office the past three decades, winning all but one election over that span.
Whaley and Cranley, whose terms as mayor just ended, have been friends for several years.
Cranley said Wednesday he chose Fedor to be his running mate because of her experience and wisdom, saying the former teacher has sought to hold rogue charter schools accountable and fought for abortion rights.
Fedor, who has served in the Ohio House and Senate since 2002, surprised her fellow lawmakers in 2015 during a debate over a bill restricting abortions when she shared her story of being raped while in the military and having an abortion.
Feminist leader Gloria Steinem endorsed Cranley’s bid Wednesday, saying in a statement released by the campaign that she formed a bond with Fedor after she spoke about being raped.
“I can think of no one who has more courageously represented the needs of her constituents, including the often forgotten welfare of women and girls,” Steinem said in the statement.
Whaley, who has the endorsement of Ohio Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, said Stephens has a history of helping more families buy their own homes and providing assistance for small businesses. She’s currently the head of the East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation.
“She’s exactly the type of leader we don’t have enough of in this state,” Whaley said.
Republicans, meanwhile, said Ohio’s Democrats have a record of choosing candidates who are too far left.
“Whaley and Cranley’s running mates have little chance of inspiring working families who have borne the brunt of Democrats’ mounting crime crisis and record of failure,” Republican National Committee spokesperson Dan Lusheck said in a statement.