Democratic governor hopefuls to debate as Ohio voting begins
CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio’s governor races have been heating up as early voting begins and the candidates begin the stretch drive to the May 8 primary.
Voter registration for the primary ends Monday, and voting opens Tuesday to choose the Democratic and Republican nominees for the Nov. 6 general election to succeed second-term Republican Gov. John Kasich, along with other state and local nominees. Republicans have dominated the swing state in recent years, with Donald Trump handily carrying Ohio in 2016.
In the GOP governor race, underdog Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor’s campaign has dubbed Attorney General Mike DeWine “D.C. DeWine,” while the veteran officeholder’s campaign has countered by calling her unqualified to be governor. DeWine and Taylor have done much of their battling over the airwaves with bruising ads. DeWine has declined to meet in an official statewide debate, but they’ve had joint appearances.
Meanwhile, the four major Democratic candidates debate Tuesday evening in southwest Ohio. It’s their side’s fifth debate, but the cast has been evolving since they began last September.
Former federal consumer protection chief Richard Cordray joined the race, as did former congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill. State Sen. Joe Schiavoni has remained in, while former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton dropped out to become Cordray’s running mate. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and former state legislator Connie Pillich both withdrew and endorsed Cordray.
Kucinich, used to playing the maverick role, has challenged Cordray as being soft on gun restrictions in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting in Florida. When Cordray, also a former state attorney general, touted his executive experience in an April 3 joint appearance of the four before the Cleveland.com editorial board, Kucinich told him he had “deserted your post” by giving up his consumer protection job last year to run for governor.
Cordray reached back four decades to lash out at Kucinich’s record as Cleveland mayor, which included a financial default that Cordray said left the city with “a black eye.”
O’Neill says legalizing marijuana and adding state hospitals for mental health and addiction treatment could create jobs, and he takes an anti-abortion stance. Schiavoni, the youngest in the race at 38, describes himself as a fresh face who can relate to everyday Ohioans.
“We’ve seen attempts by the candidates to differentiate themselves from one another, and I would expect this to be the theme here,” said Miami University political scientist John Forren. “It’s a chance for them to be in a head-to-head format ... to address voters’ concerns.”
Forren will be one of the panelists at the Tuesday evening debate on Miami’s regional campus in Middletown. Candidates will also answer audience questions in what at this point is the last scheduled official Democratic debate.
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