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At A Grove City Diner, Richard Cordray Upends Ohio Governor Race

Richard Cordray
Steve Helber
Associated Press

To the chanting of "Cordray! Cordray!", Richard Cordray walked through Lilly's Kitchen Table and into the Ohio governor's race on Tuesday morning.


After months of anticipation, Cordray, who grew up in suburban Columbus, officially entered the race at the Grove City diner.

In the announcement, the former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief focused on his Central Ohio upbringing and staying in Ohio, even when he worked in Washington.

“I commuted back and forth every weekend,” Cordray said. “I made that trip the last time and realized I’d done it over 300 times over the last six and a half years.”

For his campaign, Cordray said he would focus on issues like economic insecurity and the costs of health care and college. He stressed that he raised his kids in Ohio and stayed connected to Grove City throughout his political career.

“This is my hometown and I never became a creature of Washington,” Cordray said. “It always was strange to me, and I found I developed new allergies when I went there, and I thought maybe that was the very best reaction I could have had.”

Lilly’s Diner filled up with local supporters before the 10:30 a.m. announcement. Herma McGuire arrived first, showing up at 7 a.m.

“I heard he might, and then I heard that he might not, and this morning when I turned the news on I was so excited,” McGuire said. “I had my son look up where he was gonna be. I was the first person in the door today and they didn’t even know he was coming, the staff, but the owner did.”

Cordray’s run was the source of speculation for months – as CFPB director, Cordray was forbidden by law from talking about a potential campaign. That changed last month when he announced he would step down from his role.

Don Elder, who lives in Columbus, says he agrees with Cordray’s values.

“I think he knows where Ohio’s been,” Elder said. “And I think he knows where the people of Ohio would like to see Ohio grow.”

Lilly’s Diner was somewhat of a conspicuous choice for Cordray’s announcement. Tracey Cope, who owns Lilly’s Diner, says she’s a Republican herself.

“I probably will vote Republican, but I wish him the best,” Cope says. “And if he does get elected and he does great things, then kudos to him.”

Even though Cope likely won’t vote for Cordray, she wanted to host him because she believes it’s important to listen to hear out both sides.

“I just wanted everybody to see that there’s two sides to every coin,” Cope says.

Cordray previously served as Ohio’s Treasurer and then Attorney General before being ousted by Mike DeWine, who’s also running for governor. He’s also well-known nationally, and was appointed to his federal post by President Obama in 2012. 

Cordray said his relationship with the Democratic establishment is positive, and recently spoke with the former president.

“I did have a chance to sit down and speak with President Obama very recently, and he recognized and appreciated the work we had done and how we fought so hard to do it, and considered it an important part of his legacy,” Cordray said.

Rob Secaur, executive director of the Ohio Republican Party, criticized Cordray’s move to name his own successor at the CFPB. Cordray appointed Leandra English to lead the bureau after he left while President Trump named Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney for the same position, causing confusion at the agency.

In an emailed statement, Secaur said Cordray is untrustworthy.

“Now, after quitting his bureaucratic dream job and losing a battle with President Trump, Cordray thinks he is fit to be Governor,” Secaur wrote.

Cordray enters a crowded Democratic field with former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni and former state Rep. Connie Pillich. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill said he would run if Cordray didn’t enter the race, but now that Cordray has declared, he has yet to withdraw.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.