O’Neill – a registered nurse and former reporter – said he finally knows “what he wants to be when he grows up” in announcing his intention to file in February. Speaking in front of about 60 people at the Chagrin Falls Township Hall today, he laid out his vision for Ohio: Reopening the state’s mental health facilities, legalizing and taxing marijuana, and building a high-speed rail line from Cleveland to Columbus to Cincinnati.
O’Neill says those are the issues Democrats need to talk about, and he’s not worried about his sometimes testy relationship with party leadership.
“If you look at the results of the primary in 2012 – I won 87 out of 88 counties in the Democratic Primary. Grassroots Democrats support me in everything I do.”
O’Neill also wants to slash tuition at state colleges and universities, pointing to Youngstown State as an example of how to bring costs down.
“About a year ago, President (Jim) Tressel turned down a pay raise. I think we have to look at the administrative costs and I think we also have to look at why is the Ohio General Assembly not making state universities a priority? They should be a priority; they’re the future of our state.”
O’Neill joins a crowded field with four other Democrats already seeking the nomination. But he says he will leave the race if Richard Cordray – head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – decides to run.
There are also four Republicans seeking their party’s nomination.
O’Neill is the lone Democrat on the Ohio Supreme Court. He turned 70 in May, making him ineligible to run for another term. He says he plans to step down from the bench in February – 11 months early – to file to run.