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Strickland Expected to Announce Gubernatorial Bid

Ohio Rep. Ted Strickland (D), in an apparent reversal of an earlier decision, is expected to announce early next week that he will run for governor in 2006, Capitol Hill and state sources confirmed this afternoon.

Strickland’s decision, first reported by The Associated Press on Thursday, is a blow to Senate Democrats, who had been heavily wooing the six-term Congressman to challenge Sen. Mike DeWine (R) in 2006.

Strickland spent much of 2004 traveling the state and lining up support for a gubernatorial bid, but he announced in January he would forgo next year’s open-seat race to succeed Gov. Bob Taft (R). At the time, he said he wanted to remain in Washington, D.C., and left the door open to a possible Senate bid.

Strickland spokesman Chad Tanner would only confirm that his boss has made “a firm decision” about his future plans.

“He has made a decision about what he’s going to do in 2006,” Tanner said. “But he’s not ready to announce or talk about it until early next week when he makes a formal announcement.”

That “low key” announcement, Tanner said, would likely come Monday.

Strickland told the AP it is “highly unlikely I will run for the Senate.”

Strickland’s departure from the House would set up a highly competitive election to succeed him in Ohio’s 6th district, which runs along the eastern state line and borders Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Among the early Democratic names mentioned are conservative state Rep. John Boccieri, who had earlier been touted as a challenger to Rep. Bob Ney (R) in the neighboring 18th district.

Boccieri is now viewed as likely to run for Strickland’s seat. Another possible candidate is state Sen. Charlie Wilson (D).

Among Republicans, state Rep. Chuck Blasel, the House Speaker Pro Tempore, is mentioned as a possible candidate in the swing seat.

GOP strategists also argue that Democrats will be hard pressed to expand the 2006 playing field, as they have promised, if they are forced to defend competitive open seats such as this one.

Strickland was first elected to the House in 1992, defeating then-Rep. Bob McEwen (R-Ohio). During his first term, Strickland, a Methodist minister and one-time prison psychologist, helped mediate a riot at the maximum security Lucasville prison.

Still, he was defeated for re-election two years later — during the 1994 GOP landslide — but won the seat back in 1996. His pro-abortion rights, pro-gun rights and pro-union profile is a good fit for his district’s swing voters and he has easily won re-election ever since.

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