CLEVELAND — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray repeatedly faulted Republican rival Mike DeWine during their final debate Monday for failing to lead as Ohio's attorney general, while DeWine hit back at Cordray for misleading Ohioans on his record and for what he called a lack of judgment on Issue 1.
The two appeared focused and prepared as they met for their final televised faceoff at Cleveland State University just two days ahead of early voting.
The matchup is one of the nation's most expensive, closely watched governor's races. Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich is vacating the seat due to term limits.
“This election will decide our future, so don't misunderstand,” Cordray told viewers who have watched the candidates’ attack ads fly for months. “This election is not personal for me. It's bigger than that. It's about us and how we can more forward together. The governorship is not a gold watch to be given out to the guy who's been here the longest.”
DeWine portrayed himself as a pragmatic problem-solver who brings people together.
“I run for governor because I know that I can make a difference,” he said. “Throughout my career, I've been able to take problems on and I've been able to fix those problems. And the way I've done it is to bring people together. I've brought Democrats, Republicans, independents and brought them together.” He named children's health care in the U.S. Senate and the testing of thousands of untested rape kits.
Cordray said DeWine should have used the power of his office more effectively to protect consumers and to train police.
“His budget is $40 million higher this year than it was last year; zero hours for police training,” Cordray said. “Our law enforcement need that training. This is probably one of the reasons why law enforcement in this state are endorsing me, not Mike DeWine, in the governor's race. Because they know when it comes to being tough and effective on crime, he hasn't delivered.”
DeWine said the police training curriculum he developed is “revolutionary.” He said Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that Cordray supports, would open the doors to drug traffickers and ruin the state's successful drug courts.
“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,” said DeWine, who began his career as Greene County prosecutor. DeWine repeated his claim that the amendment would allow someone to legally carry 19 grams of fentanyl, “enough to kill 10,000 people.”
Cordray said, “Anybody with enough fentanyl to kill 10,000 people needs to be prosecuted for drug trafficking, and they would be. You just got that wrong, and the newspapers have said that claim on your part is an outright lie.” He called DeWine “a fentanyl failure” on the opioid crisis.
DeWine said Cordray's proposals to provide more funding to transit, infrastructure and broadband across the state are good talking points for local governments but probably can't be accomplished with tax increases.
“We will be a good partner (to local government). We will work with them,” DeWine told moderator Karen Kasler, of Ohio Public Radio. “What we're not going to do, Karen, is promise everything in the world to everybody. We don't know where that budget is going to be.”
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