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COLUMBUS — Former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton planned to jump into the 2018 governor's race Tuesday, bringing a solid track record of election wins and fundraising that could position her as the initial Democratic front-runner.
The 53-year-old lawyer from Barberton served three terms in Congress and eight years in the state Legislature, where she was the youngest woman ever elected at age 29. She also served on her local city and county councils.
Sutton lost a congressional race for a district redrawn to favor Republicans in 2012 and has since been Democratic former President Barack Obama's appointed administrator to the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, which operates and maintains U.S. portions of the waterway.
In an interview ahead of her planned announcement, Sutton said she wants to bring lessons from her working-class background to the campaign.
"I want to be someone who shifts the focus back to working families," she said. "We need champions for ordinary Ohioans. They need someone who's going to focus and make them a priority."
Sutton's decision comes at a critical time for Ohio Democrats, who already are behind their Republican counterparts in positioning their field for 2018.
GOP candidates for secretary of state and treasurer announced their plans in recent days, and three high-profile statewide officeholders and a sitting congressman are positioning to seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Republican Gov. John Kasich is barred from seeking re-election due to term limits.
Last month, Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper publicly urged interested candidates to begin declaring their intentions. The party hopes to capitalize on dissatisfaction that's surfaced among some voters across the country over Republican President Donald Trump.
Republicans now control every branch of federal and Ohio state government.