A Veep Candidate From Ohio Not Named Sherrod Brown?

Jul 10, 2016

Suddenly, there is a major buzz going on – and not just in the Buckeye State – about an Ohioan possibly joining Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket as the vice presidential candidate.

You may well have read the above paragraph and assumed we were talking about the senior senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown, who has been the subject of much veepship speculation.

Well, we're not talking about Sherrod Brown.

We're talking about 57-year-old Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general who has spent the past five years as head of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an agency created by the Obama administration, much to the consternation of many Senate Republicans at the time.

Ohio labor leaders and some Democratic politicians in the state have been touting Cordray as a potential running mate for Clinton; and there is some indication that the buzz is being taken seriously. Not that Cordray is a top-tier candidate at this point, but one whose name has certainly been mentioned within the Clinton inner circle.

The Cordray buzz actually started, it seems, in Minnesota.

Prentiss Cox, an associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota, wrote a column a few weeks ago in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune touting Cordray for the vice presidential nomination. Cox was a member of the CFPB's consumer advisory board, where he saw Cordray in action.

Cordray, for his part, can say nothing about the vice presidential buzz, because of the position he holds in the government. He can't get involved in partisan politics.

But other Ohio Democrats can and are.

And so can newspapers. Two major ones in Ohio – the Toledo Blade and the Akron Beacon Journal have published editorials urging Clinton to consider Cordray for the second spot on the ticket.

The idea of the bureau Cordray heads is to protect consumers from unscrupulous businesses and lenders; and, so far, Cordray's office has handled over a million complaints from consumers and recovered $11.5 billion for consumers.

By all measures, Cordray has been a success at the job.

If you are a long-time Ohio Democrat, you know perfectly well who Cordray is. If not, you may be scratching your head and thinking that his name sounds vaguely familiar.

Richard Cordray
Credit Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Well, he hasn't been on a statewide ballot in Ohio since 2010, when he ran for re-election as Ohio's attorney general and lost in a very close race to former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine.

The squeaky clean and boyish-looking Democrat has a resume that extends far beyond that, though.

He has been not only attorney general, but state treasurer, the state's first solicitor general, the Franklin County treasurer, and a former state representative.

And, to top it off, in 1987, Cordray was the undefeated five-time champion on the game show Jeopardy! He won $45,303 from the show; and used the money to pay off his law school debt and buy a used car.

"He's smart as a whip,'' said Ken Lortz, president of the United Auto Workers in Ohio. "I'm sure the Clinton campaign is getting close to a decision. I have no idea who that might be. But I really think Rich Cordray ought to be a top-tier candidate."

Cordray is close to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who, as an Obama White House adviser before she was elected to the Senate, promoted Cordray for the CFPB job. Warren – a consistent critic of Wall Street and the financial industry – is considered a top-tier candidate for vice presidential nomination.

"Here's a guy who has, in his every day job, held Wall Street accountable,'' Lortz said. "He can go out there and make a case to people that the little guy can fight the system and win, with the help of the government."

Cordray, Lortz said, "connects so well with people. He is so very intelligent. I think he would be great in a vice presidential debate. He is not the kind of guy who has to yell to make a point."

John Lenhart is running this year for a seventh term as the sheriff of Shelby County in western Ohio. A former Democrat turned Republican, Lenhart was named National Sheriff of the Year in 2015 by the National Sheriff's Association.

"I was a conservative Democrat; now I suppose I would call myself a moderate Republican,'' Lenhart said. "But, when it comes to this, you can push partisan politics aside in my opinion. Rich Cordray would be an excellent choice for vice president."

"I've worked with some very good Ohio attorneys general over the years – Tony Celebrezze (a Democrat), Betty Montgomery (a Republican), Rich Cordray,'' Lenhart said. "Rich is one of the finest men I have ever known, personally or professionally."

"This is not about D's and R's,'' Lenhart said. "This is about who is qualified. And Rich Cordray is more than qualified."

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, a former Speaker of the Ohio House, is highly enthusiastic about Cordray.

"I think he would make a great vice president,'' Budish said. "I worked with Rich a long time when I was speaker and in the House. He's an impressive person.

"He is a tireless campaigner and he's very, very smart,'' Budish said. "I think he would be great in a vice presidential debate, no matter who he would be facing."

Budish said Cordray is not well known outside Ohio.

"But, then again, who is?,'' Budish said. "If you get the vice presidential nomination, you become very well-known very quickly."

There has also been a lot of buzz that Cordray has plans to come back to Ohio once the Obama administration ends and run for Ohio governor in 2018. Obviously, a vice presidential nomination could change those plans.

So, what about Sherrod Brown?

Most Ohio Democrats tell you they would love to see him on the Clinton ticket. He's the type of populist Democrat who could appeal to the Bernie Sanders supporters; and there is no question that he could be an attack dog extraordinaire, going straight after Donald Trump while the presidential candidate tries to stay above the fray.

But Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid might not like the idea of Brown on the ticket.

Reid is trying to win back control of the U.S. Senate; and if Brown were elected vice president, the Republican governor of Ohio, John Kasich, would appoint his successor.

And that is the last thing Harry Reid wants.

We don't know if this Cordray boomlet is going anywhere or not. If it goes nowhere, it can't hurt him if he comes back to Ohio and runs for governor in 2018.

And if it does go somewhere and Cordray would become vice president, it wouldn't be Kasich choosing his replacement at the CFPB.