Medicaid expansion defines race for governor of Ohio


There are almost 8 million registered voters in Ohio, but only 1.5 million cast ballots in last Tuesday’s Democratic, Republican and Green Party primaries for governor.

In other words, the party nominees, Democrat Richard Cordray, Republican Mike DeWine and Green candidate Constance Gadell-Newton enter the general election without a mandate from voters.

While the low turnout is cause for concern given that the world’s leading democracy consistently lags behind other countries in voter participation, it could inspire the gubernatorial candidates to expand their reach for support in the Nov. 6 general election.

Such a broad-based campaign by the two leading candidates, Cordray, former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under former President Barack Obama, and DeWine, cur- rent attorney general and former U.S. senator, is exactly what’s needed in Ohio.

Gov. John R. Kasich, a Republican, is term-limited and will be leaving office at the end of the year. While the past eight years have been marked by political ups and downs, there is one issue that will loom large in the general election.

Indeed, the issue spotlights one of the major differences between Cordray and DeWine.

In 2013, Kasich bypassed the Republican-controlled General Assembly and received Controlling Board approval to expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare.”

The expansion has resulted in an additional 700,000 Ohioans being covered. Many of them come from the ranks of the working poor.

During the campaign, the Republican candidates made it clear they opposed the expansion and would roll back what Republican Gov. Kasich had done.

DeWine was challenged by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who broke ranks with Kasich over the Medicaid issue.

The attorney general won the nomination with a whopping 59.8 percent of the 827,041 votes cast.

By contrast, the four major contenders for the Democratic nomination not only embraced Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid, but made it clear that more Ohioans need to be covered.

Cordray received 62 percent of the 679,738 votes cast, with former Congressman Dennis Kucinich coming in second with 22.9 percent.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman garnered 9 percent, while the fourth major candidate, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill received 3.2 percent.

GOVERNOR’S WARNING

The governor has warned Republicans not to undo the expansion, contending that many Ohioans are now getting treatment for drug addiction and mental illness.

“Now at some point, I will be gone, and it will be very easy to cut the programs for people who need help,” Kasich said. “Don’t let it happen, folks.”

Though Kasich parted company with DeWine and Taylor over their eagerness to wrap themselves in President Donald Trump’s political cloak, the governor said he intends to vote for the GOP nominee. But it is noteworthy the possible challenger to Trump in the 2020 GOP presidential primary would not say how aggressively he’d support DeWine.

Other issues also will highlight the differences between the Democratic and Republican nominees, including gun control, the charter-school crisis, the payday-lending scandal and the $2 billion rainy-day fund that has resulted in local governments receiving less money from the state.

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