Ohio Rep. Jennifer Garrison, D-Marietta, may have backed out of the race for Ohio Secretary of State, but she said Monday her career in politics is not over.
Whether that return to politics comes sooner, like a run this year to retain her Ohio House seat, or later, after a temporary respite from politics, likely won't be known for at least another week. After spending the last six months campaigning for the state's top elections position and working full-time as a state representative, Garrison said she and her family needed the time off to reassess what her next step could be.
"I imagine I will do something in regard to public service in the future," she said. "It's something I feel very strongly about and I feel called to do."
When asked specifically whether she'd reconsider running for the Ohio House seat she has held for three terms, she said, "I'm going to take the week and reassess where I am."
The deadline to file to run for the Ohio House's 93rd District - or any office on the May primary ballot - is Feb. 18.
Garrison said Monday that she was approached by Democratic party leaders who were concerned about her conservative stance on social issues. She said she dropped out of the secretary of state race because the debate was becoming more about those stances and less about the actual race for the elections office position.
Garrison also trailed the Republican frontrunner for the office, state Sen. John Husted, in fundraising by more than $1.7 million, according to The Associated Press.
"The issues being discussed in regards to me and parts of my party had to do with social issues and Second Amendment issues, and although they are irrelevant to this race, they continue to be an issue," Garrison said Monday. "I care too much about this office for it to be diverted by those (social) issues. I wanted the race to be about fair, free, open transparent elections, not about issues irrelevant to that."
While a Democrat, Garrison's stances on abortion and gun control fall more in line with the Republican party.
"One of the things I wonder, and this is pure speculation on my part, is whether she might be considering switching parties," said Mike Tager, an associate political science professor at Marietta College. "That's always tricky, but I don't know what her reaction to this sort of being forced out of the race (by her own party) will be; whether she may feel, at least on the social issues, that some of her positions are closer to the Republican Party than the Democratic Party."
Garrison was not available for a follow-up question about this possible decision.
Tager also said Ohio Democrats might not have fully supported Garrison's run for secretary of state because the position has been used in the past by politicians like Sherrod Brown, Bob Taft, Kenneth Blackwell and now Jennifer Brunner, as a launching pad to higher statewide offices, like governor and the U.S. Senate.
"It was one thing for those (Democratic) activists when (Garrison) was representing a more culturally conservative district in southeast Ohio, where she might be in line with the majority sentiment, but when she was running for statewide office this probably became more of an issue for them, especially since the secretary of state has been a springboard for higher political office," he said.
If Garrison decides to take a break from politics for a year or two, Tager said her chances of winning some type of elected position wouldn't necessarily be hindered by her time out of the spotlight.
"I don't think so... it, of course, depends on what kind of office she might want to run for in the future; maybe she'll be interested in the state senate," he said. "I'm unsure what her plans are, but I don't think necessarily it would hurt. I'll be interested to see what she announces in a week or whenever she decides to talk about her political future."