Even as Sen. Sherrod Brown remains a contender to be Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, a handful of labor leaders and some Ohio Democrats have launched an aggressive effort to persuade Clinton to consider former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.
Although Brown has an extensive resume and deep ties with organized labor and progressives, there are mounting fears that if Clinton taps him for the second spot on the ticket, Gov. John Kasich would name a Republican to replace Brown should Democrats win the presidential election.
That has prompted what has become a loud and vigorous campaign to push for Cordray, director of a major federal consumer agency created by Congress in 2010 as part of a major overhaul of the nation’s financial regulation system.
Just this past week, the Toledo Blade and Akron Beacon Journal published editorials urging Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to consider Cordray, 57, who won statewide elections in Ohio for state treasurer and attorney general.
Those editorials were echoed by Sonny Nardi, president of Teamster Local 416 in Cleveland, who said he is “doing everything I can to get Rich’s name out because I truly believe he will be a great vice president.”
Dale Butland, a onetime adviser to former Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, said “if Hillary Clinton is looking for a candidate who will not in any way hurt her and who in many ways might help particularly in a state like Ohio, I think Rich Cordray should be on the short list.”
A Clinton spokeswoman declined to comment on Cordray or any other potential nominee, but at least one high-level Democrat said while Cordray has “great credentials,” he would be a “wildcard” or dark horse.”
Clinton and her advisers have not signaled who she is considering, although names mentioned by Democrats include Brown, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, or someone with a deep background in national security or counter terrorism.
Cordray has a broad range of domestic and legal experience. He earned a law degree from the University of Chicago, served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, was elected state treasurer in 2006 and state attorney general in 2008, before being narrowly defeated for re-election in 2010 by Republican Mike DeWine.
But while Cordray has the image of the nice kid next door, even his closest friends would not describe him as an electrifying speaker. By contrast, both Brown and Warren – who urged President Barack Obama to pick Cordray as the consumer bureau chief – both campaign with far greater gusto than the studious Cordray.
“Elizabeth Warren knows how to handle Donald Trump,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic consultant in Boston.
Brown seems an obvious choice. A graduate of Yale, Brown has served in the Ohio House, two terms as Ohio secretary of state, seven terms in the U.S. House, and two terms in the Senate.
His trademark and vocal opposition to any number of trade agreements – from the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 to the 12-nation Pacific trade deal negotiated by President Barack Obama – fits in well with Democrats nationally.
But he has one glaring drawback: Democrats say Clinton wants Democrats to seize control of the Senate this November. If Republicans maintain control, they can block her nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court and her cabinet, while killing her budget and tax plans.
By picking Brown, Clinton would be handing the seat over to the Republicans. By contrast, Massachusetts’ law provides for a relatively swift special election to replace Warren.
“We think the world of Sherrod Brown,” said Ken Lortz, director of the United Auto Workers in Ohio and Indiana. “But if Sherrod Brown were to run in that spot at a time when hopefully the Democrats can take control of the U.S. Senate, that would be one more seat” Democrats would have to win in another state for any hopes to control the Senate.
Others are convinced Clinton needs a bold choice. David Leland, former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party and now a member of the Ohio House from Columbus, warned because more than 60 percent of voters tell pollsters the country is on the wrong track, “we need to run a progressive change agenda and not just a status-quo election,” adding the vice presidential pick should be someone who could “shake it up.”
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