- Associated Press - Monday, March 20, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci on Monday entered the 2018 governor’s race against a potential trio of state officeholders.

Renacci, of Wadsworth, sought to position himself as a political outsider alongside three Republicans he says have spent their careers in public office: state Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

“Unlike other candidates, I’ve spent the vast majority of my career in the business world, not politics,” Renacci said in announcing his run. “I’m proud to have created over 1,500 jobs in our state and employed over 3,000 hardworking Ohioans. I believe deeply in the value of results, not rhetoric, and I am committed to putting that brand of principled, conservative, business-based thinking to work on behalf of the people of our state.”

Renacci, 58, has served in Congress since 2011. Before that, he was a longtime entrepreneur. His business ventures include LTC Companies group, a financial consulting service with stakes in scores of businesses, and a partnership in the Arena Football League’s Columbus Destroyers.

Renacci spokesman James Slepian said the congressman will prioritize “restoring the public trust” in Columbus by taking on pay-to-play politics.

“If you’re a statewide elected official, you should not be allowed to dole out state contracts to your political donors,” Slepian said. “He thinks it’s a serious problem, and in order to rid Columbus of the political corruption that exists right now, that needs to change.”

It was unclear what contracts Renacci has in mind. Ohio campaign finance law already prohibits anyone who’s given donations exceeding $1,000 over the past two calendar years to a statewide officeholder from receiving state contracts for goods and services worth more than $500 from that person’s office, unless it’s through the competitive bidding process.

Slepian said Renacci has heard lots of complaints on the issue and will pursue it.

The congressman joins three Democrats in the governor’s race. Among them is former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, who lost re-election to Renacci when their districts were drawn together in a Republican-run re-mapping process. The other two Democratic contenders are Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni and former state Rep. Connie Pillich.

All are vying to replace Republican Gov. John Kasich, who must vacate the office due to term limits.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said Renacci represents “the worst of Washington.”

“Columbus is already dysfunctional as it is,” he said in a statement. “We don’t need Renacci bringing nasty, D.C.-style obstruction to Ohio.”

Renacci also has created a super political action committee, Ohio First, whose website says it’s “in line with voter appetite for change and change-agents.” The PAC, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, says it aims to capitalize on “voters’ strong desire for change along with the anti-politician headwinds that propelled Donald Trump to an 8-point win in Ohio.”

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