Race for Ohio governor turning out to be a bare knuckles battle

You wouldn’t think a debate between Democrat Rich Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine would be exciting.

But the two normally understated politicians surprised those who watched the first Ohio gubernatorial debate on Sept. 19 in Dayton with back-and-forth exchanges and sharp jabs at each other.

Cordray, a former attorney general and state treasurer, called DeWine a career politician while DeWine, the current attorney general, said to Cordray: “You’ve been a failure at every job you’ve ever had.”

When Cordray came to Youngstown a couple of days after the debate, I asked him about the differences between the two candidates.

He said: “Mike DeWine’s been in politics for 42 years, and his record is very long and clear. He was for every tax cut for the rich that blew up the deficit. He was for every bad trade deal that hollowed out the middle class in Ohio, and he was for loosening the reins on Wall Street that ultimately blew up the economy and destroyed our businesses on Main Street. That’s his economic record.”

Cordray said his “economic record is helping small businesses grow and create jobs when I was state treasurer, defending our pension system to get money back from Wall Street – $2 billion I got back when I was attorney general and helping consumers have a voice and get problems fixed in the financial marketplace as the consumer watchdog. My background is fighting special interests to protect people. His background has been serving special interests in the Congress and in every job he’s ever had.”

The two will be back at it Monday for their second debate. This one is in Marietta.

The topics expected to be discussed include state Issue 1, the economy, charter schools and the opioid crisis.

Sharpest exchange

The latter issue was one that attracted the sharpest exchange between the two at the first debate.

“You have been in charge of this opioid crisis for the last eight years and the fact that we would listen to you would be like asking navigation advice from the captain of the Titanic,” Cordray said.

DeWine responded: “Absolutely amazing, Richard, absolutely amazing. When you left the attorney general’s office, we already had a [drug crisis]. You did absolutely nothing.”

They’ll meet for a third and final time Oct. 8 in Cleveland.

The problem is not many people see these debates.

Monday’s debate will be livestreamed online at thenewscenter.tv, but I’m guessing it’s not going to be widely viewed.

Both The Vindicator and The Blade of Toledo reached out to the campaigns seeking to do joint editorial board meetings in which the two candidates could discuss their positions on a variety of issues.

The newspapers would put the meetings on their websites exposing voters to further interactions between the candidates.

DeWine’s campaign rejected the requests.

Mike Gwin, Cordray’s campaign spokesman, said: “Rich Cordray has made clear that he’s willing to debate Mike DeWine anytime and anywhere. After DeWine’s dismal performance [Sept. 19] on the debate stage, it’s clear why DeWine has been trying to duck debating.”

Campaign ads

More than the debates, it’s the campaign ads that help the undecided voters make up their minds. Both have been on television, radio and online with several ads and it will only increase – and likely get a lot worse – as we get closer to the Nov. 6 election.

The two faced each other in the 2010 attorney general’s race that saw DeWine beat Cordray by 1.2 percent in a bad year for Democrats.

Recent polls show a tight race between the two. It’s a statistical dead-heat between Cordray and DeWine.

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