Rich Cordray and Mike DeWine tussled over health care, drug possession laws and support for local government in their third gubernatorial debate Monday night.
Democratic candidate Rich Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine revisited several disagreements in their 60-minute debate at Cleveland State University, their final one before voting begins.
DeWine, the state attorney general, criticized Cordray for supporting Issue 1, which would reduce penalties for drug possession. He portrayed Cordray as “isolated” on the proposed constitutional amendment.
The former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director replied that Issue 1 was just one way to reform Ohio’s criminal justice system, and he would support others, too.
“Mike DeWine has been the chief law enforcement in the state, and his allies in the legislature have done nothing on this. We will have a hard time on criminal justice reform the way he’s demagoguing Issue 1. You’d think Issue 1 was the only issue in this race. There’s many issues in this race," Cordray said.
Sparring over healthcare
Cordray has assailed DeWine over health care, and last night he renewed that attack. He said DeWine’s lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act, if successful, would have rendered useless the government’s rules protecting people with pre-existing conditions.
DeWine argued that he did support insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions — he just didn’t support Obamacare.
“Rich, you just think that Obamacare is so wonderful and that that’s the only way anyone could have coverage of pre-existing illness," Dewine said. "That’s simply not true. Many Ohioans didn’t like Obamacare in regards to taking away the rights to pick your doctor, the individual mandate.”
Differences over spending
Asked about Ohio’s abundant rainy-day fund, DeWine acknowledged complaints from local governments that state cuts had hurt them. But he stopped short of saying he would restore the assistance that the Kasich administration reduced.
“What I’m not going to do is come in here and do what Mr. Cordray has done, and that’s promise everything in the world to everybody," DeWine said. "We don’t know where that budget is going to be.”
Cordray reiterated a long-made Democratic promise to reverse the cuts.
“The first person who presents a budget next year is going to be the governor. And I know where that budget is going to be," Cordray said. "I am going to be working to restore local government funds in Ohio. That is my commitment.”
Areas of agreement
The two men found a couple of areas of agreement, saying students face too many standardized tests. They also both pledged to increase state support for early childhood education.
The debate moderators also asked the candidates about an issue that’s weighed on Cleveland in recent years: public transportation.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has been struggling with financial problems, and officials in Northeast Ohio have often urged the state to give transit more money.
DeWine said he would listen to local officials.
“We will listen to what the leadership of Cleveland, for example, says about that," DeWine said. "One of the big problems that we see is people who live in one area, but their jobs are in another, they are poor, they do not have the transportation.”
Cordray promoted an infrastructure spending plan.
"I’ve said very specifically what I’ll do. We will put a bonded finance package on the ballot for the voters to approve," Cordray said. "They’ve approved infrastructure four times in the last 30 years. Revolutionary, for the first time, we will support public transit as part of that.”
The Green and Libertarian parties had protested their exclusion from the debate stage in Cleveland. The Ohio Debate Commission, which includes WKSU, proposed another forum at the City Club. Only the Green Party candidate has agreed to take part.
This was the last agreed-upon debate for the two major-party candidates. On stage, Cordray proposed a fourth, in Toledo. DeWine didn’t take him up on the offer.
Election Day is Nov. 6, but ballots will start to trickle in soon. Tuesday is the voter registration deadline. Early voting starts Wednesday.