COLUMBUS -- Democratic state Rep. John Carney ended months of speculation Tuesday and confirmed his intent to challenge incumbent Republican state Auditor Dave Yost in 2014.
Carney made the announcement in a firefighters union hall packed full of supporters, including former Gov. Ted Strickland and a handful of minority party members of the Ohio House.
"I'm here today because I've grown increasingly concerned that the average working taxpayer in Ohio is being forgotten," he said. "State government, unfortunately, seems to fail to recognize what needs to happen in order for access to the American dream to be available, and that access is being diminished, unfortunately."
The Ohio Republican Party responded with questions about what Carney knew about a federal probe of the auditor's office under Kevin Boyce.
Boyce is the Democrat who held that seat before his latter appointment to the Ohio House.
"Ohio voters deserve an auditor with a proven record they can trust," Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges said in a released statement. "Unfortunately, Carney's record shows he can't be trusted to be the state's top fiscal watchdog. He's been running for auditor for the past 18 months, launching the Democrats' political attacks while ignoring corruption in his own party. Voters could never trust him to do his job in a fair and impartial manner."
Carney said such comments were among "a number of ridiculous statements" from the GOP.
He added, "The Republican Party needs to try to work on substantive public policy issues that impact the majority of Ohioans. Unfortunately, it seems like their spokesperson and their chairman are more worried about playing games than actually working on the issues that matter."
Carney joins Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, state Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), state Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Cincinnati) and former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper among Democrats who have announced intentions to seek statewide office next year.
They'll have to win party nominations first, though no other candidates have launched primary challenges.
Carney is a Cleveland native with a law degree from Ohio State University. He has served in the Ohio House since 2009, representing a Columbus-area district, and was eligible to seek another term before opting for the auditor's race.
He has been vocal in his criticism of Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio, the private nonprofit that is spearheading the state's economic development efforts.
Carney also has worked as an attorney, with a practice focused on the health care industry.
"With almost half of your state tax dollars going to health care issues, I just think that my expertise compared with the current auditor are much more significant, obviously," he said. "... Having someone in the office who knows where to look for the problems in state government is one of the most critical roles out of an auditor. As a health care attorney... and somebody who has represented physicians for a dozen years, [I] have a better idea of where to look and where to find taxpayer money that's not being spent wisely."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.