CLEVELAND — The two major-party candidates for governor ended what was supposed to be their third and final debate Monday night with Democrat Richard Cordray calling for an extra debate next week in Toledo, which has been left out of plans for gubernatorial and U.S. Senate debates in this year’s midterms.
“I think the people of Toledo would like to see us debate there,” Mr. Cordray said in his closing remarks. “I’d be willing to say I’d go and have a debate there and I’d like to invite you to join me there. ... I think the people and voters of Toledo deserve that.”
Republican Mike DeWine did not say Monday if he would agree to a northwest Ohio debate in their neck-and-neck race for the state’s top office. The previous gubernatorial debates were held in Dayton and Marietta. A U.S. Senate debate between Democrat incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Jim Renacci is Sunday in Cleveland, with others proposed in Columbus and Cincinnati but no dates set.
In their debate at Cleveland State University, Mr. DeWine and Mr. Cordray largely stuck to their tried-and-true talking points on major issues. In certain areas, such as education, their views overlapped. Both called for better early childhood education and less standardized testing.
At the end of the debate, when asked by a moderator to name something they liked about their opponent, they praised each other for being family men. Mr. DeWine, the state attorney general, also said Mr. Cordray made it a smooth transition after he ousted Mr. Cordray from office in 2011. Mr. Cordray later became director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under President Barack Obama.
Tackling health care, the two sparred over coverage of pre-existing conditions, with Mr. DeWine saying he supports it but reiterating he would have a work requirement for Ohio’s Medicaid expansion program enacted by term-limited Republican Gov. John Kasich, whom they’re fighting to succeed.
“I wouldn’t pay attention to anything he says tonight,” Mr. Cordray said of his opponent. “There’s only one law in this country that protects people with pre-existing conditions and that’s the Affordable Care Act.”
They also defended their stances on abortion, with Mr. Cordray saying he would veto anti-abortion legislation that came across his desk as governor, including a so-called “heartbeat bill” that would ban the procedure as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. Mr. Kasich vetoed a heartbeat bill passed by the state legislature in 2016.
“A woman’s right to choose and to make their own health decisions is something we should be protecting in Ohio,” Mr. Cordray said, laying into his opponent for not supporting exemptions for rape or incest.
Mr. DeWine said: “I believe the essential foundation of government is to protect the most vulnerable members of society. That includes the unborn, that includes moms who are in a very difficult situation.”
Neither candidate said they would raise taxes to fund any of the programs they have called for on the campaign trail. Mr. Cordray said he would not add to the state’s rainy day fund and instead would restore local government funding to cash-strapped municipalities. The state had nearly $3 billion stashed away as of June.
“It’s time for us to consider what investments we would make to strengthen Ohio’s future,” Mr. Cordray said, calling for more funding for early childhood programs, foster care system, and universal pre-kindergarten.
“If you total up all the money Richard is going to spend, there’s absolutely no way you could do this without raising taxes,” said Mr. DeWine, who added he would not commit to restoring funds to local government without first seeing a state budget.
“There’s no doubt that local government has been hit in the last few years,” Mr. DeWine added. “It’s been hit in the drug epidemic and as many people in local government have told me, they don’t have money that they had from the state before.”
Mr. Cordray said: “We can’t be taking money out of local communities that are very cash-strapped, taking it to Columbus, and not bringing it back. That induces local economies to be in recession, and also forces localities back to the ballot on sales and property taxes.”
Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in Ohio’s Nov. 6 election. Early voting begins Wednesday.
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