COLUMBUS - One top Democrat government official in northeast Ohio says he's forming an exploratory committee to consider a bid for governor in 2014 while another rumored to be in play, U.S. Rep Timothy J. Ryan, is expected to make an announcement soon.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said Monday that he's concerned about the direction the state is headed under Republican Gov. John Kasich.
FitzGerald announced the formation of the gubernatorial committee during an address on his website. The Ohio Democratic Party followed with a news release.
FitzGerald's move allows him to raise money without formally declaring his candidacy.
''I believe Ohio has been let down by its leaders, especially a political establishment in state government who stopped listening to the people. They're more interested in scoring partisan points or taking care of the insiders than focusing on what's best for the middle class,'' FitzGerald said in the release.
The Ohio Republican Party questioned FitzGerald's ties to corruption that permeated county government and to the coming of a new round of politicking in the bellwether state.
"Just to be clear, isn't FitzGerald the same person who the Justice Department called 'Public Official 14' and opposed reforming Cuyahoga County's corrupt government?" said party spokesman Matt Henderson. "Ohioans just can't wait for two years' worth of more negative attacks - from another politician no less."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Ryan said the congressman will be announcing his decision soon and that it would be ''premature'' to say Monday when the Niles Democrat would make the announcement.
Wiley Runnestrand also declined to comment on FitzGerald's announcement.
The most recent Quinnipiac University polls shows both FitzGerald and Ryan have some ground to cover to beat Kasich.
The governor holds a 10-point advantage over FitzGerald and an eight-point lead over Ryan.
Numbers indicate Kasich would also defeat other mentioned challengers former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton and Richard Cordray, the former treasurer and attorney general in Ohio who now runs the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Kasich ousted former Gov. Ted Strickland in 2010 in one of Ohio's most expensive governor's races. The first-term governor says he plans to run again. He's raised more than $2.7 million over the past two years and has $2.1 million on hand.
FitzGerald, a former FBI agent and Lakewood mayor, was elected in 2010 to lead a new county executive-council government in Ohio's most populous county to replace a scandal-plagued commissioner.