COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A fiery Democratic state senator on Monday launched a campaign to unseat Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted next year.
Sen. Nina Turner announced her bid to become the state’s elections chief at an event in Cleveland, joined by community and elected officials. Turner, who’s from Cleveland, said she wants to assure all votes are counted.
“We need fair elections, we need to protect every Ohioan’s right to vote and we need to attract high-quality jobs to this state,” she said. “In 2012, we saw the worst of election politics, and I am running because we can and must do better.”
Turner criticized Husted for an order during last year’s presidential election that set uniform hours for early voting in Ohio’s 88 counties, breaking from a tradition of allowing counties to set their own schedules.
Democrats argued at the time that the move was detrimental to large, heavily black urban counties like Cuyahoga that had added hours to accommodate crowds. Husted said he wanted to create uniformity so all state residents had the same opportunity to cast in-person ballots, noting that he also had expanded their ability to vote by mail.
Turner said in a telephone interview Monday that she disagreed with Husted’s decision to challenge the state’s early voting rules to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“One would think that if you were chief elections officer that it would be your job not only to execute the elections but to encourage people to vote,” she said. “That did not happen in the state of Ohio, and I would argue that state of confusion had a negative impact on every single voter.”
Turner has been a state senator since 2008 and is known for passionate floor speeches. Before that, she was the first black woman to represent Ward 1 on the Cleveland City Council.
She faces an uphill battle against the well-funded Husted, who previously served as a state senator and speaker of the Ohio House.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges said Husted has done a good job for Ohioans. He said Turner’s “radical policies and rhetoric” contrast greatly with Husted’s “common-sense conservatism.”
“Secretary Husted has cleaned up Ohio’s voter rolls and has made it easier for American servicemen and women to vote,” he said in a statement.
With Turner’s announcement, the Democrats’ statewide ticket continues to solidify.
Another Cleveland politician, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, is running for governor against Republican John Kasich. Former Attorney General Richard Cordray, entangled in a fight to keep his appointment as President Barack Obama’s consumer watchdog, hasn’t ruled out a run.
State Rep. Connie Pillich is challenging GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel, and Cincinnati attorney David Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner, is taking on Attorney General Mike DeWine.