Influential Ohio Democrats are pushing former Cincinnati mayor and daytime TV host Jerry Springer to run for Ohio governor in 2018, more than half-a-dozen Democrats familiar with the race told Business Insider.
Many said Springer, who sought the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio in 1982 and remains active in state politics, could be a good fit for the current political climate.
Springer's proponents have highlighted his ability in the era of President Donald Trump to provide his own funding for a campaign, and to connect with working-class voters familiar with his television show and history in Ohio politics.
Jerry Springer through his career
Jerry Springer through his career
Jerry Springer through his career
Portrait of Jerry Springer, lawyer turned talk show host, wearing a jacket and tie, Cincinnati, OH, ca 1970. Springer was a Cincinnati councilman and mayor of Cincinnati. (Photo by Daniel J. Ransohoff/Cincinnati Museum Center/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - OCTOBER 17: Television personality Jerry Springer attends NBC Television Special 'Donahue: The 25th Anniversary' After Party on October 17, 1992 at the Rihga Royal Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 26: Television personality Jerry Springer attends the 30th Annual National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) Convention and Exhibition on January 26, 1993 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - JANUARY 25: Television personality Jerry Springer attends the 31st Annual National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) Convention and Exhibition on January 25, 1994 at Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
CANADA - APRIL 30: Jerry Springer (Photo by Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Jerry Springer during Jerry Springer Promotes Videos at Wherehouse Records at Wherehouse Records in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 26: Television personality Jerry Springer attends the 36th Annual National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) Convention and Exhibition on January 26, 1999 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
LONDON - July 01: Chat show host and Politician Jerry Springer poses at a studio session on July 01, 2000 in London. (Photo by Rod Johnson/Getty Images)
397880 01: (ITALY OUT) Television talk show host Jerry Springer walks along Central Park South November 28, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images)
OXFORD, OH - FEBRUARY 13: Talk show host Jerry Springer speaks out against the threatened war on Iraq during a speech at Miami University February 13, 2003 in Oxford, Ohio. Springer, a former Democratic mayor of Cincinnati, says he's thinking about getting back into politics. (Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 06: Potential Senate candidate Jerry Springer, D-Ohio, receives a doll of himself from Dustin Proehl at the Ross County Democratic Party Spring Dinner in Chillicothe, Ohio. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)
BURBANK, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Talk Show Host Jerry Springer and Host Jay Leno talk during the 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno' at the NBC Studios September 12, 2003 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Jerry Springer during Photocall For 'Jerry Springer The Opera' at The Cambridge Theatre in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
LONDON - MAY 28: Television show host Jerry Springer poses during a photocall on May 28, 2004 in London, England. Springer will join Capital Gold radio station for one week as a special guest DJ. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Jerry Springer eating the sandwich he dedicated to Carnegie Deli. (Photo by G. Gershoff/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 18: DANCING WITH THE STARS - Jerry Springer (left), notorious TV talk show host of 'The Jerry Springer Show,' talk radio broadcaster and politician, will be partnered with Australian beauty, professional dancer Kym Johnson (right), who makes her series debut this season on ABC Television Network's 'Dancing with the Stars.' Kym was the champion of the Australian 'Dancing with the Stars.' (Photo by James Sorensen/ABC via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - JUNE 15: Television talk show host Jerry Springer poses in the press room during the 34th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on June 15, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
SUDDENLY SUSAN -- 'The Wish List' Episode 7 -- Aired 12/6/99 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jerry Springer as himself, Brooke Shields as Susan Keane -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
LONDON - FEBRUARY 17: Jerry Springer (C) poses with cast from Chicago at The Cambridge Theatre on February 17, 2009 in London, England. Jerry Springer will be starring in the hit musical for six weeks from Monday 1 June 2009 playing the part of Billy Flynn. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 07: Jerry Springer performs at America's Got Talent tour at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on October 7, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Jerry Springer (celebrating his 20th year in television) and Steve Wilkos (R) are honored on the wall of fame at The Palm on April 13, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 04: Television Personality Jerry Springer on stage at BritWeek 2012's 'An Evening With Piers Morgan, In Conversation With Jackie Collins' benefiting Children's Hospital Los Angeles at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on May 4, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
SYNDICATION PROMO SHOOTS -- Season: 2013 -- Jerry Springer -- (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE VIEW - Singer Michelle Williams; Rachel Feinstein ('Top Five') and comedian Mario Cantone guest co-host today; Wednesday, January 7, 2015. Guests include Jerry Springer ('Baggage') and Joshua Sasse (ABC's 'Galavant') on ABC's 'The View.' 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 pm; ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Fred Lee/ABC via Getty Images) ** Local Caption ** MARIO CANTONE; JERRY SPRINGER
CAMBRIDGE, CAMBRIDGESHIRE - NOVEMBER 05: Jerry Springer during his Cambridge Union address at The Cambridge Union on November 5, 2015 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. (Photo by Chris Williamson/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, CAMBRIDGESHIRE - NOVEMBER 05: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Jerry Springer posing for a portrait before his Cambridge Union address at The Cambridge Union on November 5, 2015 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. (Photo by Chris Williamson/Getty Images)
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Those discussing a possible run with the talk-show host include former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who ran for Senate last year, said Tim Burke, the Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman. And several Democrats said recent conversations with Springer, as well as his schedule, suggested he seemed to be more seriously interested in running this time than in years past.
Hamilton County is home to Cincinnati, where Springer served as mayor in the late 1970s.
Strickland confirmed to Business Insider that he had discussed a potential run with Springer. He said he has also spoken with candidates such as Dayton mayor Nan Whaley, former state representative Connie Pillich, and the former state Senate minority leader, Joe Schiavoni.
Saying it was "a little early" to make any endorsement, he said he has "been doing whatever I could to encourage any of those who are talking about running ... and I think it's important that we win and that we have the strongest possible candidate."
Strickland told Business Insider that Springer "certainly would start out with wide name recognition."
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"I think he has a very strong ability to communicate what I think is the heart of the Democratic message," Strickland said, pointing to speeches Springer delivered to delegations at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last summer. "I think he is a superb communicator."
The daytime talk-show host is set to keynote the Geauga County Democratic Party dinner next month. In April, the 73-year-old Springer also keynoted a similar dinner for the Sandusky County Democratic Party, at which he said he did not "need" to "run for office."
He's also met repeatedly with many Ohio Democrats and state power-brokers.
One state Democratic leader told Business Insider that in a recent conversation, Springer did not rule out a bid, saying he would consider running if he was "needed by the party."
Burke said he did not "think Jerry has said no, but he certainly hasn't said yes, either."
"On the other hand, he's been into a good number of our Democratic county party organization events, a good number of them recently have been in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District," he added.
The 2nd District in Ohio is just east of Cincinnati, encompassing much of Southwest Ohio. Burke, who said Springer is the county party's largest donor annually, said it remains to be seen whether Springer's increased presence at local events is a sign of a possible run.
"Jerry every year does a lot of Ohio Democratic Party county events," Burke said. "And whenever he does them, he always draws a good crowd. He continues to have a very real interest in Ohio politics."
Business Insider reached a spokesperson for Springer on Friday. The spokesperson was unable to reach Springer for comment before publication.
If he were to enter the race, he'd have stiff primary competition.
Schiavoni, Pillich, and Whaley, and former US Rep. Betty Sutton have already declared their candidacies. Several other prominent contenders are viewed still as possibilities to jump into the race, including Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray. Strickland compared the lengthy list of declared and possible candidates, all of whom are or would be seeking to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. John Kasich, to the 2016 Republican presidential primary field.
With a crowded field, Burke said he wasn't "ready to go that far" and say whether a Springer run is a very real possibility.
"I will agree that there have been a significant number of smart, leading folks from the Ohio Democratic Party or who have held Ohio Democratic Party elected positions who have talked to Jerry about this," he said.
Other Democrats are hesitant about Springer's bid, a Democratic operative told Business Insider. Critics have cited his past controversies and well-known platform as host of "The Jerry Springer Show" as a distraction, saying Democrats already have a number of qualified candidates seeking the position.
Getty Images / Michael Loccisano
It's not the first time a possible Springer candidacy has been rumored since his failed 1982 campaign. Most notably, he considered runs for US Senate from Ohio in 2000 and 2004, ultimately deciding against doing so.
Speaking to The Cincinnati Enquirer in February, Springer, who painted himself as a "populist, liberal progressive," said the idea of his candidacy gained steam because of Trump's victory.
"What's probably giving it more juice this time is the Trump victory," Springer told the Enquirer. "People are thinking that somebody outside the traditional political establishment can win. His constituency is basically mine. These are fans of the show. I could be Trump without the racism."
Springer called that constituency "ignored."
"That ought to be the constituency of the Democratic Party," he said. "Trump has misled these people. They're not helped by deregulation. They're not helped by getting rid of healthcare. These people are being duped."
Springer happens to be no stranger to political controversy.
He resigned from Cincinnati City Council in 1974 after it became public knowledge that he used a check to pay a prostitute, though he won a seat back on the council the following year. When he sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1982, Springer cut a well-known ad to kick off his campaign in which he opened up about the past controversy.
"I spent time with a woman I shouldn't have," Springer said in the ad. "I paid her with a check. I wish I hadn't done that."
Springer won more than 20% of the vote in the primary, finishing last among three contenders.
But in the age of Trump, Springer is getting renewed consideration.
John Green, distinguished professor of political science at the University of Akron, told Business Insider in an email that "under ordinary circumstances, a candidate like Springer would not be an especially strong prospect for governor."
"For one thing he has been out of Ohio politics for some time," Green said. "But given the success of Trump, a candidate like Springer might be successful. The Democrats have a number of declared candidates, but most are unknown outside of own area and none have held state-wide office. So there is an opportunity for an unconventional candidate with name recognition."