Cordray, DeWine play nice during second debate; one more Monday

In last week’s column I wrote: “You wouldn’t think a debate between Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine would be exciting.”

That came after a fascinating back-and-forth Sept. 19 debate between the two governor candidates in which they exchanged body blows and biting remarks.

If you tuned in this past Monday to the second debate between these two, held in Marietta, you likely were surprised that these were the same candidates who went at it the first time.

It was significantly more subdued than the first debate. Part of it had to do with the set-up of the second debate. It was a town-hall-style event that didn’t allow the candidates to engage each other.

At points, Monday’s debate was downright boring.

I was surprised to read accounts of the debate from other reporters about it being a feisty exchange of criticisms. Maybe I was expecting more than some.

The aggressor

Cordray, a former attorney general and state treasurer, was definitely more aggressive and took some shots at DeWine, the current attorney general.

In his opening remarks, Cordray said: “There’s no issue on which Mike DeWine and I disagree more than on health care, and no issue more important for Ohio families. I will stand up for you. Meanwhile, his campaign should carry a warning from the surgeon general: electing Mike DeWine as governor will be hazardous to your health.”

They agreed there needs to be more civility in politics when asked about the lack of public discourse. But the question gave them an opportunity to tout why they’re the better candidate.

DeWine said: “I’m the one on the stage that has had a long track record of getting these things done, making things happen. My commitment to you, the voters of Ohio, [is] I will pull people together, Democrats and Republicans, when I’m governor of the state of Ohio.”

‘Problem solver’

He added: “Throughout my career, I’ve pulled people together. My experience has been when people work together, they can get things done and solve problems. I’m a problem-solver, but I don’t solve the problems by myself.”

DeWine, a former 12-year U.S. senator, gave several examples of how he worked with Democrats during his time in Congress to get things done. He also said, as attorney general, he worked with a Democratic Cuyahoga County prosecutor to resolve the backlog of untested rape kits in that county.

Cordray said: “A lot of this poor tone and divisiveness and pitting people against each other and blaming and scapegoating is coming out of Washington, and I want to stand for something different here in Ohio. I want to stand for politics we can respect and be proud of. I want to be able to stand for reaching across the aisle and [getting] things done. By the way, over the course of this campaign, I’m increasingly optimistic we can reach across the aisle and I can work with the Legislature on education reform. I believe I can work with them on infrastructure. I would like to work with them on criminal justice reform. I’d like to have some path forward rather than the failed status quo where opioid deaths continue to rise year after year in Ohio with nothing being done to combat it.”

Cordray said when he was in the state Legislature, he worked with Republicans to get bills passed, and also worked well with the other party when he was state treasurer and attorney general.

“We have to maintain the right tone in our campaign as well,” he said. “People have to tell the truth. People can’t lie their way to public office in Ohio. That’s not the right answer, and the voters will be the judge of that.”

DeWine has said he has always supported protections for pre-existing conditions.

“I have fought for that and I will continue to do that,” he said.

Federal lawsuit

Cordray has said that’s false pointing to DeWine on his first day as attorney general joining a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. The lawsuit failed.

They meet for their final debate Monday in Cleveland. It will be a traditional one which will allow the candidates to respond to statements made by the other.

The race, according to polls, is a statistical dead-heat.

I’m not sure if the debates will change the minds of voters – or if many undecideds actually watch them – but we’ll all have one last chance to see DeWine and Cordray share the stage.