Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
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DeWine rejects Blade's offer to host Toledo debate

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It looks like Toledo won’t host a gubernatorial debate after all.

When asked by The Blade Tuesday to take part in a fourth governor debate in northwest Ohio, the two major-party candidates differed as they have on many issues during their campaigns: Democrat Richard Cordray was an enthusiastic “yes,” while Republican Mike DeWine said he would pass.

The invitation was extended after Mr. Cordray said at the end of the third — and final — debate in Cleveland Monday night that he challenged Mr. DeWine to another match in Toledo, which had been left out of earlier governor debates and the upcoming U.S. Senate debates.

Kurt Franck, The Blade's president and executive editor, said northwest Ohio residents deserve to see the candidates for governor face to face.

“Our area is often forgotten by people in Columbus, and this would give a first-hand view of our candidates' ideas and suggestions to improve northwest Ohio, and also see what northwest Ohio brings to the table,” he said.

Mr. DeWine told The Blade’s editorial board Tuesday it was a no-go.

“We had some pretty significant negotiations” to set up earlier debates in Dayton and Marietta, Mr. DeWine said. “I’m looking forward to ... having the last debate behind us and focusing on talking to people and listening.”

Candidates for governor have historically agreed to holding no more than three debates, Mr. DeWine added.

In 2014, there were no debates between Gov. John Kasich and his underdog challenger Ed FitzGerald. In 2010, then-Gov. Ted Strickland and Mr. Kasich squared off in Toledo and Columbus.

In a statement, the Cordray campaign accepted The Blade’s offer to host a debate, but set their own terms for what would have been the format.

“Northwest Ohioans deserve to see Rich and DeWine side by side, discussing the pressing problems facing the region, like keeping health-care costs down, creating economic opportunity for all and tackling the toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie. We are excited to accept this offer from [The] Blade, and we’re hopeful DeWine will join us,” Cordray campaign manager Michael Halle said.

The campaign said it “accepted” a format and staging similar to the first debate, “a one-on-one traditional debate with podiums,” led by one moderator and two additional panelists. Those terms were not proposed or agreed to by The Blade before they were sent out by the Cordray camp in a news release.

Jill Zimon, project director for the new Ohio Debate Commission, which formed earlier this year, said it’s always a challenge choosing a city and venue for debates, as well as moderators and an audience who reflect the area. The commission organized the Cleveland gubernatorial debate.

“These are tough questions that nobody’s really solved,” she said. “We’re hopeful that through collaboration we can rotate it and have enough debates so that more Ohioans are involved and more people feel like they’re being spoken to and listened to.”

In the 2018 U.S. Senate race, incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth have firmed up three meetings: this Sunday, in Cleveland; Oct. 20 in Columbus; and Oct. 26 at Miami University of Ohio in Oxford.

Contact Liz Skalka at lskalka@theblade.com, 419-724-6199, or on Twitter @lizskalka.

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