Republicans swept the statewide positions, beginning with the governor, in the November general election. However, a probable Republican candidate for the upcoming 2026 election for governor has already been identified.
Former president of the conservative policy organization Buckeye Institute, Matt Mayer now serves as president of Opportunity Ohio. Due to the time and resources required to create that campaign, he has decided to launch an exploratory campaign for the Republican nomination for governor in 2026.
“I realize the approach I am taking of announcing the exploration of a run so early is unorthodox, but I don’t have millions to dump into this race so I have to build support from Main Street Ohioans and small business owners the old fashion way, which will take time and perseverance. I believe slow and steady wins the race,” Mayer said.
Ohio “needs more (Florida Governor Ron) Desantis and less DeWine,” according to Mayer, who declared that he is not an “establishment” candidate. He faults previous Republican policies for not assisting the state’s sluggish pandemic recovery or preventing people from leaving, particularly outside of major cities.
“Establishment career politicians have had every chance to re-energize Ohio, but instead have ignored the very forms we have demanded for decades. Each passing year, the voices expressing discontent and anger with the Establishment here and in Washington, D.C., have grown. In 2016 and 2020, millions of Ohioans voted for Donald Trump because they felt he would take on the Establishment and drain the D.C. swamp. In Ohio, however, the Establishment maintains a firm grip on control in Columbus, as evidenced by the deal cut in early January with Democrats to put a moderate Speaker in charge in the Ohio House. I believe it is high time we take back control, which won’t be easy,” Mayer said.
Lt. Governor Jon Husted is likely to run for governor in 2026 and is anticipated to receive significant financial assistance from the GOP. Mayer suggested that Dave Yost, the attorney general, and Keith Faber, the auditor, may also run. DeWine received 48 percent of the vote in the May 2022 primary, while his rivals Jim Renacci and Joe Blystone received 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
Republican primary voters, according to Mayer, are “dying for new, bold vision” as opposed to the ideas of career politicians like Governor Mike DeWine, since DeWine didn’t gain a majority in that primary. With 62.4 percent of the vote, DeWine won re-election in November, which is the third-best showing in state history for a governor candidate.
Mayer told The Ohio Star that “[W]e have a lot of work to do to get Ohio firing on all cylinders.” He pledges to focus on nearly two dozen agenda items, that he says will improve Ohio’s trajectory.
According to Mayer, under his leadership, Ohio will become a right-to-work state, regulatory reforms will be intensified, state spending will be frozen, the state income tax will be repealed, JobsOhio will be disbanded, the tenure of all state offices will be limited to 20 years, and the pay of the governor and lawmakers will be reduced and replaced with a pay-for-performance system.
“I think we’ve got to put right to work in place. We’ve got to eliminate the state income tax. We’ve got to have fundamental government reforms. We’ve got to get elected officials in a pay-for-performance environment, meaning cut the pay of the governor, cut the pay of the lieutenant governor, and cut the pay of every legislator and let them have a bonus eligibility if they get Ohio’s private sector in the top ten job growth. If pay-for-performance works in the classroom, which Republicans we’ve said that forever it should work for the legislature,” Mayer said.
Mayer told The Star that what drives him, unlike other politicians, is what’s best for Ohio not what’s best for his career.
“I’m the right person for the job because I know what hasn’t worked for over two decades and what needs to be done to get Ohio leading again. My motivation is what is best for Ohio, not what is best for my career,” Mayer told The Star.
Former Congressman Jim Renacci (R-OH) said that during his 2017 gubernatorial bid, Mayer, made his mark on the campaign with the development of compelling data and analysis that played a key role in crafting policy proposals.
“Matt was a paid staffer on my 2017 Governor campaign. He was a great policy guy and a data guy. Many of my Governor policies were developed based on data he brought to my attention. He has some great data analytical skills. I would employ Matt to run my policy team. I would not employ him to run my company,” Renacci said.
As president of Opportunity Ohio, Mayer develops strategic policy positions and advises policymakers on a wide range of issues. He has worked in public policy and politics at the state and federal levels. Mayer holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton and a law degree from Ohio State University.
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