Renacci, a former four-term congressman from northeast Ohio who held office from 2011 to 2019, announced his candidacy on Cleveland’s WTAM 1100 radio station.
“Ohioans can’t afford four more years of Mike DeWine as their governor,” the businessman and former Wadsworth mayor said in his announcement.
“We have seen what failed leadership can do to a once prosperous state. DeWine’s tenure as governor will be defined as the worst period in Ohio’s long and rich history,” the 62-year-old said. “Corruption, indictments, low job creation, shutdowns, rampant crime, and more scandals—that is DeWine’s legacy.”
In a campaign video, Renacci called DeWine “a career politician” and accused the first-term governor of being “more interested in being the Andrew Cuomo of Ohio, rather than actually helping everyday Ohioans.
“COVID happened and he made a choice to rule like [New York’s Democratic Gov.] Andrew Cuomo instead of leading like President Trump. We need to dump Ohio’s Cuomo, Mike DeWine, end his Trump-bashing reign, and elect an Ohio-first conservative who fights for you,” Renacci said.
The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
Renacci is the first serious Republican challenger to the expected reelection bid of the 74-year-old DeWine, a former state attorney general, U.S. senator, and lieutenant governor. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley is running to be the Democratic nominee.
Speaking on WTAM 1100, Renacci criticized the governor’s handling of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, echoing remarks from fellow Republicans who have accused DeWine of taking an excessive approach.
He took particular issue with the governor’s hiring of Dr. Amy Acton as his health director. Acton during the onset of the pandemic “guestimated” that 100,000 Ohioans had already contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus.
“That was a scare tactic. That scared people,” Renacci said.
Renacci ran for governor in 2017 before being backed by then-President Donald Trump to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, when Republican Josh Mandel suddenly left the Senate race, citing his wife’s health. Renacci lost to Brown.
In January 2019, Renacci founded the Ohio’s Future Foundation, a political nonprofit dedicated to advocating “business-related policies that will make Ohio first.” He was also named chairman of the Medina County Republican Party last year.
Trump hinted at a primary for the Republican governor in November 2020, after DeWine suggested Trump should begin the transition to then-President-elect Joe Biden.
“Who will be running for Governor of the Great State of Ohio? Will be hotly contested!” Trump said at the time.
Renacci’s gubernatorial bid will be advised by former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.