Democratic aspirants for governor have chance to reach out to voters

On the side

Don’t look to the Mahoning County Board of Elections for a decision on the placement of political yard signs including their size and when they can go up.

The board said because of the variety of zoning regulations throughout the county, it cannot offer legal advice as to whether a particular sign is permissible.

But the board mentions that because of state and federal Supreme Court decisions on First Amendment cases, there are “severe restrictions on how far government can go to regulate speech, especially political speech, like yard signs placed on private property.”

The board asked communities with regulations on political yard signs to review them with their legal counsel.

The Democratic candidates for governor will debate for the first time Sept. 12 in Martins Ferry, a city of about 7,000 people in the eastern part of the state, in an effort by the Ohio Democratic Party to introduce them to voters leading to the 2018 election.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper made the announcement earlier this week there would be about six debates – three this year and three in 2018 before the May primary – between the candidates held throughout the state and shown live on the party’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

“I think this process will bring out the best in the candidates; they will energize our voters,” Pepper said.

The question is: how widespread is the interest in these debates, particularly nearly eight months before the primary?

All four announced Democratic gubernatorial candidates will participate in the debates.

They are: state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, former state Rep. Connie Pillich and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

None are well-known statewide so the debates could help the candidates with name recognition.

The elephant in the room remains Richard Cordray, director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a former attorney general and state treasurer. Unlike the four declared Democratic candidates, Cordray has won state office.

Cordray’s term doesn’t expire until July 2018 so he’d have to quit or be fired by the president “for cause” to seek the governor’s position.

There have been numerous rumors about Cordray running and possibly making an announcement next month. He’s got to make a decision pretty soon.

As Pepper said: “I think anyone looking to run for statewide office, there aren’t that many months left before you really have to get going.”

Cordray last ran for office in 2010, losing a close re-election bid for attorney general to Mike DeWine, who is the best known Republican candidate for governor in next year’s race.

Whether voters remember Cordray – and will support him should he run for governor – is debatable.

But remember that Republican John Kasich was away from politics for close to a decade before he was elected governor in 2010 over incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland. Also, De-Wine was left nearly politically dead after losing his U.S. Senate seat in 2006 to Democrat Sherrod Brown only to make his comeback beating Cordray in 2010 and has positioned himself as a serious governor candidate for 2018.

The Republican Governors Association continues to go after Cordray accusing him of potentially violating federal law while exploring a run for Ohio governor in a nonpolitical position.

It’s a shot in the dark, but it’s interesting to note this is the second time this month the RGA has done this. That shows national Republicans are more concerned with Cordray in the gubernatorial race than they are about any other candidate.

“Ohioans deserve to know whether Richard Cordray is using his Consumer Financial Protection Bureau office for political gain at the expense of taxpayers,” said RGA Communications Director Jon Thompson. “If these new revelations are correct, and Cordray did discuss potential gubernatorial debates with Ohio Democrats, he should admit truthfully what he discussed, if he is engaged in prohibited political activity, and why he is so focused on not doing his job.”

On the Republican side, Americans for Prosperity-Ohio sought to organize a Sept. 5 debate with the four candidates: DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci.

It was canceled when De-Wine’s campaign declined to participate saying it could divert people’s attention from the November election. Husted then bowed out of the event because he wants all four candidates to be involved.

That led a frustrated Taylor to say she was “appalled by the decision to postpone the first debate in the 2018 Republican primary because of other candidates’ refusals,” according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Citizens for Community Values and Salem Media of Ohio announced Thursday that it will host a candidates event, not a debate, with the four Republicans on Oct. 8 in Westerville, near Columbus.

The candidates will sit down for 15 to 20 minutes with Frank Luntz, a Fox News analyst and pollster, “to explain their vision for the state, discuss how faith impact their life and leadership, and share their views on key issues facing our state,” according to a press release. Democratic candidates have also been invited to participate.

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