Mike DeWine promised in Monday’s night’s gubernatorial debate to be focused on jobs and job creation “every single day I’m in office” while his opponent Richard Cordray said he would focus most strongly on healthcare reform.
With the format switching to a town-hall setting at Marietta College, the two candidates had less time to attack each other than in the first debate. But that didn’t deter Cordray. He still made sure to spend the first 20 to 30 seconds of almost every question he answered attacking DeWine.
When it comes to healthcare, Cordray said DeWine’s campaign “should come with a warning from the surgeon general: Electing Mike DeWine as governor will be hazardous to your health.”
DeWine scored a zinger when it came to the ECOT charter-school scandal.
“When we ran against each other the last time, ECOT gave Richard money, not me. I don’t think he ever gave it back.”
DeWine said Ohio’s economy is poised to improve dramatically as long as the right decisions continue to be made in Columbus. Unlike his opponent, he said he would keep taxes down and regulations in check.
“I’m excited about the state of Ohio and especially southeast Ohio,” where growth is being sparked by the shale-gas plain, DeWine said. “Ohio will have the cheapest natural gas in the entire world.”
That will not only mean cheaper rates for Ohioans but a real draw for industry.
Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical has for years been studying the feasibility of building an ethane cracker plant in eastern Ohio.
DeWine said it’s going to happen.
“The cracker plant we believe is coming, and will bring great economic spinoff,” he said. “It’s important we do the right things to make sure this goes forward. Jon Husted and I have a plan, an economic and jobs plan for the entire state. It starts with education. We will focus on early childhood development, and on our career centers, and we’re going to have an opportunity to take them to the next level.”
Cordray said DeWine accepts too much money from drug companies and only cares about doing their bidding. “Betty Sutton and I will battle for all of us. We will protect everyone with pre-existing conditions. There is no issue to which Mike DeWine and I disagree more than health care. I will stand up for you.”
DeWine accused Cordray of distorting his record on healthcare.
“Mr. Cordray unfortunately is wrong, and he knows he’s wrong. I have come out throughout my career making sure people have coverage for pre-existing illnesses, and I have fought for that and will continue to do that,” DeWine said. “I favor Medicaid expansion. The difference is, he thinks the status quo is good whereas I would add a work requirement and try to get treatment for those who need it and the skills that they need.”
On mass shootings
When asked about school shootings, Cordray made it all about passing new gun-control laws.
DeWine said he and running-mate Jon Husted have a “very realistic plan” to put into action. It starts with mental-health evaluations in the elementary schools “to find out if someone has a problem early early on.”
Secondly, DeWine said he would empower the federal Fusion Center in Columbus to “focus on what is going on over social media in the schools.” Some schools are already doing this independently, he said, “and we’re going to be there to tell the schools, help the schools.” Lastly, he said every school should have school-resource officers.”
Cordray, just as he did in the first debate, blasted DeWine for not mentioning the word “guns” in his plan to curb so-called “gun violence.”
“We have to be more forward thinking,” Cordray said. “And we have to do some common-sense things, like outlaw bump stocks and clips.”
A United Auto Workers union member asked if DeWine would veto a bill making Ohio a right-to-work state if the state legislature passed such a bill.
DeWine said he would veto it. “This is not an issue Ohio needs to fight,” he said.
On rape and violent crime
Cordray accused DeWine of distorting his record on rape kits. He said there were no untested rape kits sitting in his office during his tenure as attorney general. “It’s a bogus claim.”
DeWine, who succeeded Cordray as state attorney general, begged to differ.
“Let me tell you what the truth is and what really happened. What Mr. Cordray did not tell you is that the day he left office, if there was a rape in your community or a serious violent crime, it would sit there for 125 days [before testing]. Today we can turn that around in three days and 24 hours or less if we have to. Back when I was a county prosecutor I remember reading about the problem with rape kits. I knew, so I don’t know why he didn’t. They were not sitting in the AG’s office, he’s right about that. They were all over the state of Ohio [at local police departments], and so we tested 12,000 that were sitting there while Mr. Cordray was in office and we have justice for victims. Justice for victims. We’ve taken rapists off the street and more importantly we have justice for victims.”
DeWine pointed out that Cordray is “almost alone” in his support for Issue 1. This ballot referendum, if passed by voters, would reduce many drug crimes to misdemeanors, including less than 20 grams of the deadly opioid fentanyl. “Even the Democrat candidate for attorney general opposes it,” DeWine said.
On roads and bridges
Cordray said he would place a priority on rebuilding Ohio’s infrastructure, and this includes a heavy investment in public transportation. He said he would create a special fund for public transit but didn’t say how he would raise revenue for the fund.
Cordray said he would also expand broadband Internet across the state. Again, no mention of how he would pay for it.
DeWine said his focus on job creation would start with improving Ohio’s education system.
“What happens in your high schools and community college matters, we’re going to have less testing and more teaching,” he said, adding that he would implement the “most aggressive early-childhood development program in the country.”
On the environment
Both candidates said more needed to be done to clean up Ohio’s lakes and streams, especially Lake Erie, which has major problems with algae bloom.
“That should be a jewel of Ohio,” DeWine said. “I sued Dupont for what they have done over many years, making Teflon. They knew it was dangerous, they continued to put it out, and we sued on behalf of the state.”
Unlike Cordray, DeWine explained how he would pay for the cleanup.
“We need a 10-year bond issue to really provide the resources we need to clean up our streams and lakes,” he said. “We have to pull together, the agricultural community, people who like to fish and enjoy water sports, pull them all together. But we have to have a bond issue.”
Cordray boasted that far-left environmental groups have endorsed him, not DeWine. “His record is very spotty. No action. Actions speak louder than words. We will put a plan in place immediately. We can’t have a city like Toledo have its drinking water unsafe because of algae blooms in Lake Erie. Too little, too late.”
Mandi Merritt, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said the contrast between the two candidates could not be more apparent.
“Mike DeWine has a proven record of getting results for Ohio, and has substantial plans to continue moving Ohio forward,” she said after the debate. “Whether it’s investing in education, overcoming Ohio’s drug problem, or creating more jobs and economic prosperity, Mike DeWine is prepared to enter the Governor’s office on day one and get to work for Ohioans. Richard Cordray, on the other hand, has made it clear he has nothing to offer Ohioans but failed leadership and a scandal-ridden past of discrimination, mismanagement and political cronyism. Ohioans deserve better than Richard Cordray – they deserve the tried and true leadership of Mike DeWine.”
The third and final gubernatorial debate will take place one week from tonight in Cleveland.
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.