Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott is the lone candidate for Columbus mayor in 2015 -- for the time being.

Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott is the lone candidate for Columbus mayor in 2015 -- for the time being.

But Democratic and Republican officials say voters could very well expect a crowded field for the next primary election, which will decide which two candidates move on to replace longtime Mayor Michael B. Coleman.

In what was a surprise for many, Coleman announced Nov. 26 that he would not seek a fifth term in 2015.

Within 24 hours, Scott threw his hat into the ring.

Coleman, a Democrat who just turned 60, is the longest-serving mayor of Columbus, having been elected to four consecutive terms. He took office in 2000.

As for Coleman's future, the mayor hasn't decided what he's going to do after leaving office, according to his spokesman, Dan Williamson.

For the first time since 1999, it will be an open race for the job, which gives the GOP a sliver of hope, said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.

He said the party has talked to about a dozen prospective candidates but would not reveal any names. He said a screening committee soon will be named to vet potential contenders.

"We have to remember Columbus is an overwhelmingly Democratic city," he said, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 3-1.

"So the odds are against us in the best of circumstances," Preisse said.

Coleman easily defeated his four challengers, one a write-in candidate, since his first race in 1999.

Some of the names being mentioned on the Democratic side, in addition to Scott, are: Columbus City Council President Andy Ginther; U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty; state Sen. Charleta Tavares, a former member of city council; Tracy Maxwell Heard, minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives; and Michael Mentel, a former member of council and an attorney who's in private practice.

Ginther, who some consider the strongest candidate, hasn't made up his mind, said John Ivanic, spokesman for city council.

"He's looking at all options, taking all options into consideration," Ivanic said.

Another potential candidate is John Carney, a Democratic state representative who ran unsuccessfully for Ohio auditor. Carney, an attorney, said he hasn't ruled out running but considered it a long shot.

William Anthony Jr., chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party, said the party's executive committee will meet in February to decide whether to endorse any number of candidates.

"The party has done a pretty good job," Anthony said. "We have a lot of good candidates."

Because Columbus has a nonpartisan primary, "It could end up being two Democrats in November," Anthony said.

He said Coleman not only will be a hard act to follow, "He's going to have some say-so in who replaces him."