Political scientists look ahead to 2026 Ohio governor race

Date:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Some political scientists predict the results of this fall’s presidential election will impact some future statewide elections here in Ohio, including the 2026 governor race.


What You Need To Know

  • Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is serving out his second and final term. That means the seat will be open in 2026. 
  • It is still early to make predictions, but political scientists expect Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to both run for the Republican nomination. 
  • Political scientists said the Democratic field will likely depend on Sen. Sherrod Brown’s current run for re-election

Ohio is approaching the end of an era as Republican Gov. Mike DeWine serves out his second and final term in office. That means the governor’s office will be wide open in 2026.

“With an open seat, that’s going to tend to draw an interesting field of experienced candidates,” said Justin Buchler, associate professor of political science for Case Western Reserve University. “And that will have a big effect.”

The Ohio Republican Party sent Spectrum News a statement about the look ahead to the next governor’s race. “In 2026, the Ohio Republican Party looks forward to elect another strong Republican governor who will deliver on their promises and is 100% committed to Ohio’s families, workers and businesses,” it read.

Political experts said they are looking for any signs a candidate may be making moves toward a possible future campaign.

“All that maneuvering,” said University of Akron Political Science Professor Dave Cohen. “Some of it happening in the public view and much of it happening, actually, behind closed doors with, you know, people who write big checks.”

Cohen said if people follow the money, they’ll likely find candidates.

“Jon Husted, the lieutenant governor, has raised more money than anybody else,” Cohen said. “He’s clearly running.”

Cohen said another probable candidate for the Republican nomination is Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, but he said other politicians who are term limited in their current offices could also be possible challengers.

“All these candidates are gong to try to be strategic and tactical, and not step on too many toes and find the easiest path for them to continue full-time employment by the state of Ohio,” he said.

Buchler said he is also keeping a close eye on what happens at the national level this year to have an idea of what could happen in Ohio in 2026.

“Whichever party wins the White House this year, that would tend to benefit the opposing party in the next round of midterm elections,” he said.

The Ohio Democratic Party sent Spectrum News a statement about the outlook ahead of 2026. “We’re focused on the U.S. Senate race and the down ballot races for 2024, as those races will have significant consequences for Ohio voters,” it read.

Cohen said the Democrats’ strategy for the governor’s seat will likely hinge on Sen. Sherrod Brown’s current run for re-election.

“If he loses, I think if he’s not ready to be done with politics, I think without a doubt, he would consider running for the governor’s office,” Cohen said.

Some other potential Democratic governor candidates include House Minority Leader Allison Russo, former Congressman Tim Ryan, and Judge Jennifer Brunner.

But, Cohen said no formal announcements on any 2026 campaigns are expected until next year.

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