Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill on Wednesday backed off his pledge to drop out of the 2018 Democratic race for governor if Richard Cordray entered the race.
Cordray announced on Tuesday that he is running for the Democratic nomination. O’Neill, whose entry into the race while remaining on the bench is controversial, now says he will only leave the race if one of the other Democratic candidates agrees to his anti-opioid addiction plan.
O’Neill had originally said he would drop out if Cordray, who last month stepped down as director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, entered the race. Cordray on Tuesday announced he is running.
“I told Rich that I would not be leaving the race unless I heard that someone accepts my proposition that opening the mental hospitals and legalizing marijuana” is the solution to the opioid crisis, O’Neill said.
O’Neill said he would fund the reopening of state mental hospitals with the $300 million annually that he believes would be generated by legal marijuana.
O’Neill was criticized for not resigning from the court when he announced his candidacy on Oct. 29. The Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to resign if they enter a partisan race, but O’Neill contends that he would only become a candidate officially when he turns in his nominating petitions by the Feb. 7 deadline.
“I have recused on all future cases, and on Friday I will be announcing my retirement date if my approach is not accepted by Rich,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill, the only Democrat on the state high court, said if he pulls out of the governor’s race he will remain on the bench through the end of his term in 2019. He can not run again due to age limits. If O’Neill resigns early, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, would name his replacement.
O’Neill ignited further controversy and calls for his resignation last month when he posted remarks on Facebook touting his sexual exploits with “50 very attractive females.”
He subsequently apologized for the post.
Cordray today brings his “Kitchen Table Tour” of Ohio to Dayton, where one of his other Democratic rivals, Nan Whaley, is mayor.
“On this campaign, I’ll focus on the kitchen table issues that keep families up at night — like the cost of healthcare and college, how to find that better job and how to be able to save for retirement,” Cordray said in a news release issued by his campaign.
Cordray will be at the Old Courthouse in downtown Dayton, 301 W. Third Street, at 12:15 p.m. His tour includes Cincinnati and Toledo today.
The other announced Democratic candidates are former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, and former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron.
Candidates on the GOP side include Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who last Thursday announced that Secretary of State Jon Husted would drop his own bid for governor and become DeWine’s lieutenant governor running mate.
U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor have not yet announced their running mates in the GOP primary.
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