Cleveland State hosts gubernatorial debate amid tight race

By: Kevin McGhee

Oct. 29, 2018

With Election Day less than a month away, candidates for Ohio governor traded jabs, viewpoints and, surprisingly enough, compliments during the final gubernatorial debate between Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine, which was held on Monday, Oct. 8, at Cleveland State University.

Sponsored by the Ohio Debate Commission, the debate was the last of three that the candidates agreed to, taking place in the university’s Student Center Glasscock Ballroom. Cordray had called for an additional debate in Toledo, but DeWine declined to say during the debate whether or not he supported the idea. As it currently stands, it is unlikely the two will face off again before Election Day.

An Oct. 9 poll conducted by Baldwin-Wallace University’s Community Research Institute showed DeWine leading Cordray 40 percent to 37 percent in a four-way race also featuring the Green Party and Libertarian Party. The difference between the two, however, is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

DeWine opened the debate thanking the university as the debate’s host and spoke about his commitment to Ohio’s children.

"Our goal is that every child in the state, no matter where they're born, who their parents are, what their situation is, they ought to have shot at the American dream," DeWine said, “And I will do everything in my power to make sure that happens.”

Cordray used his opening statement to take hits at DeWine, saying he has moved Ohio backward on key issues and is out of touch with Ohio’s citizens.

“You have had your chance for 42 years,” Cordray said of DeWine. “It is time you stepped aside and it’s time for Ohio citizens to step into our future. This is about taking on the fight of who you stand up to and stand up for. I have stood up to the same special interests who bankroll his campaigns, and I will always stand up for the people of Ohio.”

A significant portion of the debate centered on the state’s critical drug crisis. A Centers for Disease Control report in 2017 showed that 72,000 Ohioans died from drug overdoses. In one of the debate’s most contested moments, a heated Cordray placed a portion of the blame on DeWine.

"Fentanyl deaths have [went] from 70 a year, understand this, from 70 a year to 3,431 last year,” Cordray said. “Drug dealers have had a playground in Ohio. While you've been asleep at the switch, you've been the fentanyl failure for Ohio.”

DeWine criticized Cordray for supporting Ohio’s Issue 1. If passed in November, the constitutional amendment would lessen criminal penalties for low-level drug offenders.

Continuing the Issue 1 debate, DeWine said that the ballot initiative would prevent individuals possessing enough fentanyl to kill 10,000 people from going to prison. Cordray called the claim untruthful, and Politifact, the political fact-checking group, found the statement to be less than truthful.

“Richard, the problem is you’ve never been a county prosecuting attorney and you don’t know anything about it, and you’re dead wrong,” DeWine, a former Greene County prosecutor, said.

A Suffolk University/Cincinnati Enquirer poll of 500 likely voters dated Oct. 4 - 8 showed 43 percent in support of Issue 1 while 38 percent oppose the measure. Nearly one in five said they had not yet decided how to vote. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

The two candidates also debated an individual’s right to an abortion. DeWine said he is pro-life and would sign a heartbeat bill, a proposal which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, if it came across his desk. Cordray pledged his support for access to abortion and said he would veto a heartbeat bill if the situation arose.

There was some agreement, however. Both said an investment needs to be made in public transportation and that they would work on reducing standardized testing and improving education. Each candidate also committed to improving Ohio’s child welfare system.

Partisan politics aside, the two ended the debate on a warm note. They were asked to say something they liked about their opponent.

Cordray said he always respected that DeWine, a father of eight children, is a family man. DeWine returned the compliment and said that Cordray made his transition into the attorney general’s office easy. DeWine defeated Cordray in the race for attorney general in 2010.

“This is not personal between him and me,” Cordray said. “To me this is about how we’re going to lead the state of Ohio.”

Return to Cleveland Stater.



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