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Mike DeWine and Richard Cordray duke it out in first Ohio governor’s race debate

September 20, 2018

Mike DeWine and Richard Cordray duke it out in first Ohio governor’s race debate

DAYTON, Ohio – While mostly known as quiet and droll, Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray were anything but that in the first Ohio governor’s debate.

DeWine, the state’s attorney general, and Cordray, the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, aren’t known for their excitable personalities, but from the onset of the debate at the University of Dayton, the two traded barbs for most of the hour.

The tenor of the debate was a sign of what’s to come as the Nov. 6 election approaches. In short, the negativity is not likely to subside.

But what once looked like a potentially boring, though important, contest relegated to attack ads between two bookish wonks could prove lively with two debates remaining.

The message each candidate wanted to send Wednesday was clear. Cordray thinks DeWine and the Republican Party represent moneyed interests and an outdated way of thinking – and that the attorney general has failed in the past. Cordray came out in full support of access to abortion and for the legalization of recreational marijuana, both issues that resonate with young voters.

“We wanted to paint the contrast between myself and Mike DeWine,” Cordray said at a news conference following the debate. “For 42 years, he has sided with corporate interests and special interests, and I’ve been somebody who has fought those same interests. There is really a stark divide between us, and we really wanted to make that clear to people.”

DeWine, meanwhile, wants to keep building on the Republican plan for the state and thinks Cordray and the Democrats are incompetent. Most of the time, he stuck to the points he’s been making in his ads regarding untested sexual assault kits and drug dealers.

“He really did a lot of talking, but there’s a real difference between the two of us,” DeWine said to reporters after the debate. “You can compare what I did as attorney general and what he did as attorney general. We got the job done.”

Perhaps the most contentious issue was the opioid addiction epidemic – which has especially ravaged the Dayton area.

“You’ve been in charge of this opioid crisis for the last eight years. ...” Cordray said. “That we would listen to you for advice on the drug epidemic would be like listening to the captain of the Titanic.”

DeWine also attacked Cordray for his response to drug addiction, repeating a campaign line that Cordray’s support for Issue 1 would allow drug dealers to possess enough fentanyl to kill 10,000 people and only face a misdemeanor.

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

Despite most polling and Google Analytics data showing health care is the subject at the top of people’s minds, the issue scarcely came up, save for the numerous references to opioid addiction.

DeWine did try to head off an impending attack from Cordray on the Medicaid expansion, part of the Affordable Care Act that expanded the program that provides coverage to the poor, disabled and children in the state.

DeWine refused to say during the primary whether or not he would keep the Medicaid expansion – especially after the Republican-run legislature passed a bill to scale back the program. GOP Gov. John Kasich, who instituted the expansion, vetoed that bill.

“We’re for the Medicaid expansion. So is Richard. The only difference is he is for the status quo,” DeWine said, adding his plan would institute work requirements and focusing on wellness programs.

Cordray, a firm supporter of the Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act, also pointed to protections for people with preexisting conditions. The ACA – more commonly known as Obamacare – bars insurance companies from charging people with preexisting conditions a higher premium.

A lawsuit by 21 states working its way through the federal courts has critics worried a conservative court could rule the entirety of Obamacare unconstitutional, doing away with preexisting conditions.

Multiple state attorneys generals have filed amicus briefs against the lawsuit. DeWine has not, despite having filed briefs numerous times in the past.

“You’ve had lawyers in the court, and they’ve been pursuing hobby projects of yours in more than 100 cases, but you haven’t been able to get lawyers into the courts to stand up for preexisting conditions in Ohio,” Cordray said. “People with asthma and cancer in danger of losing their health care or having their premiums jacked way up because they don’t have that protection.”

“Richard fully understands that I’ve always been for coverage of preexisting illnesses,” DeWine said. “That is the truth. He doesn’t seem to want to admit that.”

The antipathy Cordray and DeWine share for each other is not likely to fizzle any time soon, especially with outside interests pouring both money and their support into the state. PACs and the candidates have flooded both the airwaves and digital sphere with attack ads.

Republican President Donald Trump and his predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama, have both staked their claim in the governor’s contest as well, viewing it as an important lynchpin to each party’s chances at taking the state in the 2020 presidential election for their respective parties.

The next governor debate is Oct. 1 at Marietta College.

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