By ZACK LEMON
The four Democratic candidates for Ohio’s governor seat attempted to distinguish themselves from one another in the final two months of the primary season.
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, former federal consumer watchdog Richard Cordray, former Cleveland congressman Dennis Kucinich, and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill debated a wide range of issues, including gun control, charter schools and drug policy at Bowsher High School on Wednesday night.
The candidates agreed on opposing right-to-work laws and the need for some sort of tighter gun-control laws, though each had a different response to gun violence in schools and cities across the country.
Schiavoni, D-33rd, focused his rebuttal time on securing schools, before pitching a national discussion on an assault-weapons ban.
“We need to shore up our schools first and invest in services in our schools,” he said, which would include security staff and behavioral specialists in school buildings.
“If the Second Amendment gives you the right to own an AR-15, we have a right as citizens to know where it is,” O’Neill said, proposing a law that would require every AR-15 be registered with the local police chief.
Kucinich said he was leading the field on this issue by calling for a straight assault-weapons ban, something he said Toledo, Akron and Cincinnati all passed resolutions supporting.
Cordray proposed closing varying loopholes that allowed guns into the hands of those he thinks should not have those kinds of weapons.
“We have to tighten our gun laws and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and domestic abusers,” he said.
They also distinguished themselves personally from one another, with O’Neill and Schiavoni portraying themselves as outsider candidates.
“The establishment Democrats haven’t been able to win,” Schiavoni said. “On this stage, the three candidates other than me have a combined 100 years of political experience.”
O’Neill, despite his lengthy political career as an Ohio Democrat, accused the avowed-neutral Ohio Democratic Party of throwing its weight behind Cordray.
“Richard, you show up, and 30 days later, you’ve got $2 million in the bank,” O’Neill said to the inaugural director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“You are Prince Richard of the Ohio Democratic Party.”
Cordray responded later in the debate, arguing his experience and the name recognition that came with it were a product of his willingness to work with others to help ordinary people.
“I would prefer to be known as Richard the Lionhearted,” Cordray said.
“I’ve been up here in Toledo and northwest Ohio numerous times. ... I have worked with [former] Mayor [Carty] Finkbeiner to save the jobs of police officers during the financial crisis. I worked with Teresa Fedor to create the first human-trafficking commission in the state.”
Kucinich, a longtime Cleveland congressman, defended himself from Cordray, who criticized his calls to impeach then-President Barack Obama after he approved airstrikes in Libya in 2011.
This was the fourth debate for the Democratic candidates for governor, with two more planned.
“Our commitment is to an open, transparent primary,” said David Pepper, chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Just under 300 people attended the debate.
The four candidates will be on the partisan primary ballot May 8, with the winner facing the Republican nominee in the general election to replace term-limited Gov. John Kasich.