Latest Mike DeWine ad accuses Richard Cordray of enabling serial rapists
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine is up with his first gubernatorial commercial of the general election, attacking Democratic foe Richard Cordray over untested sexual assault kits and saying he enabled serial rapists to commit more crimes.
The ad attempts to paint DeWine as tough on crime – or, rather, Cordray as soft on crime – a tactic used by other GOP candidates in the midterms and a favorite of Republican President Donald Trump during rallies.
DeWine’s ad knocks Cordray – his predecessor as attorney general – for the backlog of untested rape kits that had accumulated in Ohio. In 2010 when the two squared off in the attorney general race, a backlog of more than 12,000 had built up statewide in multiple departments.
The ad features Allyssa Allison, a rape victim whose kit went untested, recounting the attack on her. A voiceover then says that Cordray let the backlog build up when he was in the attorney general’s office.
“Cordray’s failure left serial rapists free to strike again,” the narrator says in the commercial.
The ad goes on to say DeWine tested the backlog of rape kits that put, “hundreds of rapists behind bars.”
“Thanks to Mike DeWine, they found my rapist,” Allison says. “Because of Mike DeWine, I’m not afraid anymore. It feels good not to be scared.”
The backlog of rape kits was built up over years by the time it was brought to the forefront around by reporting from Rachel Dissell and Leila Atassi for The Plain Dealer. The state lacked a standardized policy on testing the kits, which often yield crucial evidence for prosecutions, leaving local departments to deal with them as they saw fit.
Activists demanded action. Cordray introduced robotics into the testing lab at the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to speed up testing times before he lost his reelection bid in 2010.
After DeWine took office, he methodically set out to test the remaining backlog by expanding BCI’s testing capabilities and encouraging local law enforcement to send untested kits to the state lab. As of February 2018, nearly 14,000 kits have been tested and 300 serial offenders have been linked to 1,127 crimes.
DeWine has kept a relatively low-profile since a bloody primary with Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor that saw the once seemingly anointed candidate spend $5 million to beat a challenger with little infrastructure or establishment support.
The ad is the first of many in what is bound to be a brutal general election between the two candidates to replace term-limited GOP Gov. John Kasich. Democrats see Ohio as an opportunity for a pickup and elections analysts have rated the state a “toss up.”
DeWine is also taking a tougher approach, attempting to appear as a “law and order” candidate at a time when the attorney general has faced criticism after an Associated Press report detailing a grievance filed by BCI officers that said 53 of 99 special agents were given expired Kevlar bulletproof vests. DeWine’s office said all vests are now on order.
Cordray received the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police – the largest police organization in Ohio – as a direct result of the scandal.
“Now that this has become a political problem for his campaign, he’s trying to take action for something that has been a safety issue for years,” said FOP President Gary Wolske in a statement announcing the endorsement. “It’s a shame that he waited less than 90 days before an election to decide he could adequately protect Ohio law enforcement officers. Our members deserve better.”
Cordray, meanwhile, has opted for a more light-hearted approach to soften his image, including playing up his appearances on the quiz show Jeopardy! and his eclectic social media posts.
DeWine’s strategy mirrors other Republicans’ game plan in the midterm elections. Trump and numerous other GOP candidates have routinely attacked Democrats for crime related issues, saying they’re enabling street gangs like the notoriously violent MS-13.
The tactic is not new. The most infamous example is Willie Horton, a violent felon from Massachusetts who received a weekend furlough and did not return. Horton eventually raped a woman and assaulted her fiancé.
The campaign for Republican then-Vice President George H.W. Bush used Horton in an ad to attack Democratic Mass. Gov. Michael Dukakis during the 1988 election, painting Dukakis as cavalier about crime. The Willie Horton ad is often credited as undermining Dukakis’ candidacy, leading to Bush’s victory.
The DeWine campaign did not say how much they were spending on the ad, but did say it was running statewide.
The Cordray campaign did not immediately have a statement.