Don’t be surprised if Ohio doesn’t know who its next governor will be when you wake up Wednesday morning. And don’t be surprised if Richard Cordray’s support of the controversial Issue 1 ends up determining his fate in becoming Ohio’s next chief executive.
Polling in the final days of the governor’s race shows a contest too close to call with Republican Mike DeWine holding a 39.4 percent to 38.8 percent lead over Democrat Cordray.
The undecided vote is huge, with nearly 17 percent of the likely voters surveyed by Baldwin-Wallace University saying they are still unsure how they will mark their ballot. Another 6 percent supported other candidates.
The poll was conducted one week before Election Day and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Cordray is one of the few public figures backing State Issue 1, which has seen its support nose dive in the polls. It’s gone from a lead of 48-30.5 percent just 24 days ago to 43-39.8 percent last week.
The proposed Constitutional Amendment seeks to eliminate prison time for low-level, non-violent drug offenders in exchange for more and better drug treatment programs and facilities.
“Our current system in Ohio isn’t working,” Cordray told AIM Media. He pointed to DeWine’s last eight years as attorney general, saying the time has long passed for DeWine to step up and solve the problem. “We’ve gone from about the middle of the states in the death toll to being the worst in the nation except for West Virginia. … It is devastating communities across the state.”
In opposing Issue 1, DeWine lines up with most judges, prosecutors, police, firefighters, the state bar association and county commissioners statewide. They argue that without the threat of prison or jail time, there’s little incentive for addicts to seek treatment.
“It would be a disaster,” DeWine said. “The truth is many addicts will not seek help unless they are pushed into it.”
Both candidates sat down with The Lima News Editorial Board in mid-to late-October. They spoke candidly about a host of issues facing the next governor.
DeWine, 71, of Cedarville is the current Ohio Attorney General, in office since January 2011. Prior to that he served as a U.S. Senator, lieutenant governor, U.S. Congressman, a state representative and state senator. He’s also a former Greene County prosecutor.
Cordray, 59, of Grove City, has been a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, solicitor general of Ohio, treasurer of Franklin County, Ohio State treasurer, Ohio attorney general and the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Presidents Obama and Trump.
DeWine and Cordray have run against each other before in an election, with DeWine narrowly defeating Cordray in 2010 for Ohio Attorney General.
Both candidates agreed there’s a “skills gap” between the many jobs that employers have available and the abilities of Ohio’s unemployed and underemployed.
DeWine touts his “Ohio Prosperity Plan,” which he says would ensure that high school students are either college-ready or career-ready when they graduate. People would be able to earn occupational licenses and industry certificates to obtain the skills for high-tech jobs, he said. Regional job-training partnerships with businesses, educators and community leaders would be created.
Cordray said his administration will focus on improving worker skills by utilizing public and private partners on job-training opportunities. He spoke of providing more two-year degrees, apprenticeships and certification programs.
Neither candidate talked of a situation in which they would raise taxes.
“We don’t need to turn back the clock and raise taxes on hard-working Ohioans or our job creators,” DeWine said.
Cordray wants to work with a legislative committee to review state tax breaks to ensure they truly strengthen the economy and result in putting more money in the pockets of middle-class Ohioans.
DeWine says he would sign the stringent restrictions on the so-called heartbeat abortion bill while Cordray says he would veto it.