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Will Jerry Springer Run For Ohio Governor?

Sep 1, 2017

Jerry Springer at the Columbus Metropolitan Club last year
Credit Ohio Public Radio

A nationally syndicated tabloid talk show host from Ohio could be entering the gubernatorial race.

Former Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer has talked about politics before but there are now signs that he is seriously considering entering the race. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

Jerry Springer is acting and sounding more like a political candidate these days. This Labor Day, he’ll join janitors, school district workers, security guards and other members of the State Employees International Union in Cleveland for a march and rally in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. He plans to attend Democratic U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge’s fundraiser picnic later in the day. And he recently spoke at a fundraiser for some key Statehouse Democrats including Representative Janine Boyd.

“All I know for certain is he’s really strongly considering it.”

Boyd says Springer is doing his homework, talking to political movers and shakers, and has talked to her about important issues facing the state.

“I do think timing is everything. And I think if he decides to get in the race, this is the right time.”

Springer is a lawyer and former television news anchor, and he was the mayor of Cincinnati and served on its city council in the 1970s. But Springer is best known for something else…the show named after him that’s been on air for more than 25 years. It’s a show where talking is often eclipsed with fighting and chanting.

(chanting here – fade under)

Many accused the show of exploiting people in their worst human condition. It’s a criticism that Springer tackled head on when I asked him about it on a recent Columbus Metropolitan Club panel.

“Look, my show is stupid, alright (chuckles from crowd)

Springer says he gives voice to many who otherwise wouldn’t have one. And he says his guests have some control over their appearance. Many of those who attended the Columbus forum admitted they don’t watch his show. But the audience seemed to appreciate his candor and humor with former Democratic State Representative Ted Celeste and journalism professor and columnist Tom Suddes.

Suddes “Journalists sometimes take the high road and act like they are the children of Mother Teresa and of course they aren’t. That’s foolish….

Springer “Mother Teresa wouldn’t have children”

(Audience chuckles)

Suddes “You don’t know that yet.”

(more audience chuckling)

Springer (in boisterous announcer voice) “Next on Springer..”

(fade laughter under)

Still, Springer’s show is likely to be a target for Republicans if he chooses to run. Mark Weaver is a G.O.P. strategist.

“It’s interesting that Jerry Springer is taking a break from jello wrestling dwarves and the women who love them.”

Springer has something in common with Republican President Donald Trump, in that both have had long running television shows not related to politics. But Weaver says that’s the end of the similarities.

“The brand that Donald Trump advanced on ‘The Apprentice’ was one of business leader who made big deals. And that, at least, has some relevance to politics.”

For his part, Springer is prepared to make a distinction there too.

“It’s a total disrespect for your country to think you can run for president when you’ve never even been head of a village council.”

Springer had a failed bid for Congress in the 70’s, and also ran unsuccessfully for Governor in the 80’s. And he’s been involved in politics behind the scenes for years. He was at the Democratic National Convention last year, and he’s funded and supported Democratic candidates. In fact, that’s how Boyd says she knows him.

“I know he’s associated with his show a lot, which I’ve never been a fan of. Whenever, I’ve heard him speak publicly and even privately, he’s wicked smart and he has remained politically engaged since his career in the 70’s and he understands politics and policy.”

There are four Democrats running to be Governor right now – Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former State Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, former state Rep. Connie Pillich and former U.S. Congresswoman Betty Sutton. It’s already a crowded field for the Democratic primary but a political science professor from the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron, John Green, says don’t count Springer out.

“His name recognition and his finances would put him in a good spot.”

And Green says Springer might appeal to voters Democrats haven’t been able to attract in recent years.

“Jerry Springer might appeal to the Trump voters here in Ohio, some of which had traditionally voted Democratic. And that’s appealing to many Democrats and a number of independent analysts think that’s a possibility as well.”

Springer was also considering running for the US Senate in 2000 and in 2004, but both times he decided against it. Springer is expected to decide soon whether he’ll run for governor.