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Government & Politics

Democratic Gubenatorial Candidates Enter The Final Stretch With a Lot of Voters Undecided

Photo of Cordray and Sutton
WKSU public radio

It’s crunch time for the four Democratic gubernatorial candidates who want to be Ohio’s next governor. They are making their final pitches to primary voters during the last days  of their campaigns.

Boxes of campaign literature clutter the floors and signs cover the walls of Richard Cordray’s Columbus office. All of this, and a sign inviting volunteers to enjoy campaign snacks, is a testament to long hours spent on outreach efforts. Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general and head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, finds himself spending most of his time on the road these days.

"We are fighting for every vote at this point. Primaries are difficult events. And we have been all over the state and will continue to be all over the state, making sure people get our message, making sure we get our vote out, and we will be working right up through Tuesday.”

Cordray, is the frontrunner according to pre-primary polls, including one released last week by Baldwin Wallace University. He has support from President Obama, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and many key Democratic leaders and unions. But he finds his race is a little tougher than some may have anticipated a few months ago.

photo of Dennis Kucinich and Tara Samples
Kucinich was a late entry and picked Akron Councilwoman Tara Mosley Samples as his running mate.

Former Cleveland Mayor and Congressman Dennis Kucinich is getting some key endorsements from progressive groups that backed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary and has the endorsement of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. What Kucinich and the three other candidates in the race don’t have is Cordray’s money. He has $1.6 million in the bank. The others have less than a million.

But Kucinich says he’s had enough to do some radio ads and he’s got dedicated volunteers.

“This is really a mass movement that’s gathering momentum that has actually much more value. You know each person, to me, is worth a considerable amount of money. Having a volunteer in a campaign will sometimes outweigh a contribution of four figures.”

Sen. Joe Schiavoni says he’s focused his money on ads on social media where a lot of voters, particularly younger ones, spend time. He says his campaign will be knocking on doors, making phone calls and talking to voters throughout Ohio.

“It’s a true, grass roots effort and you know, Rich Cordray is going to be on TV and I’m not.. But it doesn’t mean that we can’t win, and underdogs win when they are overlooked.”

Polls show former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill is also an underdog in this race. But he says he’s feeling good going into the last days of the race. He says he’s feeling momentum.

“We’re kind of getting overwhelmed by responses on the internet and on the phone. We found ourselves late last week having to order another 100,000 pieces of campaign literature. We just bought more radio time because people are contributing and people are getting excited about this race because it has clearly come down to a four-way race. I don’t think anybody would challenge that.”

The Baldwin Wallace poll shows more than 40 percent of likely Democratic voters had not made up their mind with less than a week left before the election.

Though it appears most establishment Democrats are behind Cordray, Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper says the organization has not endorsed a Democratic gubernatorial candidate. It is using the statewide redistricting issue to get voters to polls.

“Our big push is to make sure voters are coming out in the primary because Issue 1 is on the ballot and we really want it to pass and we know Democratic voters are very supportive of it.”

Early vote totals from the Secretary of State’s office show more than 220,000 ballots have been requested so far. About 115,000 have been Democratic ballots, compared to 91,000 Republican ballots. The return rate for both is around 58 percent. The average voter turnout for a gubernatorial primary in Ohio is around 29 percent but there’s no projected turnout set yet for this Election Day.