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Steve Dettelbach for Ohio attorney general: endorsement editorial

October 7, 2018

Steve Dettelbach for Ohio attorney general: endorsement editorial

Ohioans have two compelling options for state attorney general in the upcoming Nov. 6 election.

Republican Dave Yost and Democrat Steve Dettelbach are both experienced, well-prepared and highly qualified for the office. Both have had long and successful careers, including on the prosecutorial side of the law but also in private practice.

Both also are justifiably proud of their public work thus far.

Dettelbach, 52, of Solon, spent six-plus years as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, prosecuting many high-profile cases, including against drug cartels and child predators.

Yost, 61, of Columbus, has served as Ohio auditor for the last eight years, pursuing investigations that have started scores of malefactors on their way to justice, including in a number of cases prosecuted by Dettelbach’s office.

Each candidate also, unfortunately, appears to be highly partisan – an unavoidable reality in the world of electoral politics but an unfortunate trait for a job that is best done with a nonpartisan approach. Yet each has proven over the years to have no compunction about prosecuting members of his own party.

This is the first attempt at elective office for Dettelbach, a product of Greater Cleveland’s Hawken School who holds degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard Law. His background includes stints in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, as an assistant U.S. Attorney and as commissioner of the Ohio Ethics Commission. He was a partner at the Baker & Hostetler law firm, which has done legal work for both The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com.

Yost has spent significantly more time in the political arena. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University and Capital University Law School who spent four years as a reporter for the defunct Columbus Citizen-Journal. Prior to his two terms as state auditor he served two terms as county prosecutor and one term as county auditor in Delaware County, and served briefly on Delaware City Council and was a partner in a small law firm in Delaware, Burkam, Yost & Fuller.

There is a tiebreaker in this decision, however, and it comes in the form of the long-running ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) scandal that has hung like a millstone around the neck of a number of Republicans on the Ohio ballot this year who took large campaign contributions from those connected to the now-shuttered online charter school. That includes Yost, who’s announced he’s given more than $29,000 in ECOT-related contributions to charity but denies the campaign donations impacted his actions.

But as auditor for the last eight years, Yost is in the dock for not more aggressively investigating ECOT for the estimated tens of millions of dollars it overcharged the state by cooking the books on online attendance -- even after a whistleblower notified Yost’s office that skullduggery was afoot. 

Yost says he deferred to a deal the Ohio Department of Education had struck at the time, that limited early counts to enrollment only, not other measures. And it was Yost whose audit  that has led to some recovery for Ohioans. 

But the fact remains that the whistleblower’s warning came in 2014 and Yost’s office did not start investigating with gusto until 2016. And accepting the campaign contributions put him in a compromising position, at the very least.

We can’t look past those errors in judgment, and voters should not, either.

Steve Dettelbach should be the voters’ choice for attorney general on the Nov. 6 ballot. Early voting starts Wednesday. 

Early in-person and absentee voting for the Nov. 6 election begins Oct. 10. For more resources on Ohio races, consult the League of Women Voters’ voters’ guide. 

Republican Ohio Auditor Dave Yost and former U.S. attorney Steve Dettelbach, a Democrat, are competing to become the next Ohio attorney general. The two candidates were interviewed by the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer on Oct. 1, 2018 as part of its endorsement process. Listen to full audio of the interview below:

About our editorials: Editorials express the view of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer -- the senior leadership and editorial-writing staff. As is traditional, editorials are unsigned and intended to be seen as the voice of the news organization.  

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