Ohio's Democratic candidates cite differences at debate


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By DAVID SKOLNICK

skolnick@vindy.com

MIDDLETOWN

During their final public debate, the four Democratic candidates for governor kept it largely civil.

The one-hour debate in this southwest Ohio community didn’t give the candidates much time to discuss the issues in depth, as answers were kept to about a minute each.

Sharing the stage Tuesday – which was also the first day of early voting for the May 8 primary to determine the Democratic gubernatorial nominee – were state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, ex-U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill and Richard Cordray, a former state treasurer and attorney general.

Kucinich called for a ban on assault weapons, Schiavoni said he would sign a ban if it were approved by the state Legislature, while O’Neill said people have a right to own them, but should be required to register annually with their local police department. Cordray said he has a comprehensive gun control plan, but didn’t answer the question on an assault weapon ban. He has told The Vindicator a couple of times that he doesn’t support a ban, saying it wouldn’t be approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Schiavoni was probably the most aggressive when he said: “We need somebody different in order to lead this state, somebody that’s going to stop talking about all the things in the past, but talk about how we are going to get the Democratic base in the position where we can move forward and beat [Republican gubernatorial frontrunner] Mike DeWine, because if we can’t paint a contrast with Mike DeWine, then we don’t win. I’m the only candidate who can stand on stage with Mike DeWine and say, ‘Mike DeWine is a career politician that has only done things to benefit himself and not this state’ and not be a hypocrite when I say that.”

While Schiavoni is the only current officeholder, the others have served in government positions for longer periods of time.

In response to Schiavoni, Cordray said, “I can’t agree with what Joe said that anybody on this stage is a hypocrite. I think everybody on this stage means well and are putting forth plans they think will improve Ohio. One question is, are those plans practical and achievable and who has a record of real results of getting things done.”

Cordray added: “I have sought to make sure that in government we work for the people and we lift up the people. That is what I will do and that’s why we’ve put forward plans to help small businesses create jobs, plans to address the opioid crisis, plans to reduce the gun violence and a plan today for free community college, which we need in this state. These are things that will move us into the future.”

O’Neill said he was proud of the Democrats on stage with him and “the next governor of Ohio is going to be a Democrat. There’s no question about that.

“It is time for the Democrats of Ohio to demand of our candidates, me included, plans,” he said. “I’m saying legalize marijuana, build mental health hospitals and open the prisons [to release] nonviolent people. More hospitals, less prisons.”

Kucinich said he wants “people to imagine the kind of Ohio four years from now with a Kucinich administration. We will have led the way with health care for all.With all of your help we will have led the way for two-year free college. We’ll begin rebuilding our infrastructure, $15 minimum wage. We will make steps toward universal pre-kindergarten. We’ll straighten out these charter schools that are stealing from public education. There’s a new Ohio waiting to be born, and with your help” it “will be.”

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