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FitzGerald Emerging as Early Kasich Challenger FitzGerald Emerging as Early Kasich Challenger

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FitzGerald Emerging as Early Kasich Challenger

updated 2:24 pm.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald says he hasn't decided if he will run for governor in 2014, but the "pace of it is accelerating" after former Gov. Ted Strickland's announcement that he won't be joining the race.

In an interview with the Hotline, FitzGerald said he’s still making up his mind. "I'll make a decision sometime relatively soon," he said. He said he had "long conversations" with Strickland about the race, and former governor kept him abreast of his timetable for a decision. FitzGerald is no stranger to opposing Kasich; he delivered a videotaped response to the governor’s speech at the Republican National Convention last August.

But even as he waits for an official announcement, several Democratic strategists tracking the Ohio governors’ race said that FitzGerald is likely to jump in and would potentially clear the field. Democrats believe FitzGerald can effectively run as a reformer who championed ethics laws as county executive, even though he will need to quickly raise money and his profile.

With Strickland's decision clearing the way, FitzGerald said the biggest factor left in his decision is the amount of support he thinks he'll be able to garner. He acknowledged having conversations with party leaders to cultivate backing if Strickland chose not to run. "I've never run statewide before," FitzGerald said. "I've got to talk to people in every part of the state and make sure I'm going to have a broad base of support across the state." One opportunity to test the waters will come tomorrow, when FitzGerald speaks to Democratic county chairs in Columbus. "There's a lot more urgency to those conversations," he said.

Challenging Strickland in a primary was never an option. "He was the presumptive frontrunner and nominee if he wanted to be," FitzGerald said. "I just never could cross that bridge."

FitzGerald wouldn't speculate if Strickland would support him in a potential Democratic primary, but said the former governor's backing would be important to the eventual Democratic nominee. "I think he's a big asset," FitzGerald said. "He's a very effective campaigner. Any nominee for governor would be well-served to have him be a part of that effort."

Another potential candidate, Rep. Tim Ryan, said in a statement he "will decide in the near future which path he will pursue to best serve the people of his community, state and country." Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, also floated as a candidate, said there was no way he would run.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray, who previously served as Attorney General of Ohio, and former Rep. Betty Sutton, who lost her re-election bid in November, are also possible candidates.

Josh Kraushaar contributed to this report.

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