If Ohio is to escape the second-class status that comes of having an under-educated workforce and a legislature with 20th-century thinking, the state’s next governor must be able not just to inspire change but also to make it happen.
A mulish General Assembly that’s likely to remain Republican-run and largely rural will need to be herded toward 21st-century solutions. And without a budget reset, the state’s misplaced spending priorities of recent years chart a negative long-term course.
Republican Gov. John Kasich, ineligible to run again because of term limits, has been in many ways a good steward, notably in pushing through Medicaid expansion. But his budgets robbed localities of resources, failed to shore up school funding, rewarded the well-connected with tax breaks and overstuffed the state’s rainy day fund while doing too little to stoke a broad economic transformation.
“Cordray wants to challenge convention; DeWine is comfortable with the status quo. Cordray would invest more in basic and higher education and crack down on charter schools.”
Meanwhile, the deadly opioid crisis, instead of abating, is still accelerating, further eroding local resources in children’s services, drug treatment and rehabilitation, mental health services and in the state’s courts and prison system.
So who is stepping forward to lead Ohio’s needed transformation in policy, in action, and in leadership and priorities?
The two major-party contenders for governor are Democrat Richard Cordray, 59, of the Columbus area, who served as first director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Republican Mike DeWine, 71, of Cedarville in southwest Ohio, Ohio’s current attorney general and a former U.S. senator.
Nowhere are their contrasts more apparent than on health care.
Cordray argues forcefully for why Medicaid expansion has been good for Ohio, both on economic and human grounds; DeWine suggests he would need to make it “sustainable” via work requirements.
Cordray chastises DeWine for not intervening in a Texas lawsuit that seeks to gut core protections in the Affordable Care Act, including on pre-existing conditions, arguing the interests of the many Ohioans at risk of losing their health coverage are on the line. DeWine — who as attorney general has frequently intervened in multi-state lawsuits — says it’s not needed in this case since the key arguments have already been raised.
Also on the ballot for governor are Green Party candidate Constance Gadell-Newton, 38, of Columbus, a self-employed attorney who advocates for local control of oil and gas drilling; and Libertarian Travis M. Irvine, 35, a filmmaker and journalist from Bexley, who favors reduced state spending and the legalization of marijuana, which he argues could help supplant opioids. Both are intelligent, engaged and well-meaning but neither is ready for the governor’s mansion.
In the opioid plague, Ohio’s local governments are first responders. Yet Kasich and the legislature have slashed Ohio’s Local Government Fund, forcing Ohio communities, many in Northeast Ohio, to raise local taxes to replace lost state aid. And that erosion of local resources continues as the crisis begins to eat away at almost every aspect of local government spending.
During the endorsement interview, Cordray promised to restore that state aid; DeWine said he’d need to await more information on Ohio’s finances next year, when the state’s 2019-21 budget will be written.
Other issues also sharply divide the two men, but what really distinguishes Cordray from DeWine is a willingness to take risks.
Cordray wants to challenge convention; DeWine is comfortable with the status quo. Cordray would invest more in basic and higher education and crack down on charter schools that can’t account for taxpayer money. DeWine promises transformative spending only on early-childhood education.
Republicans have been Ohio’s governors for 24 of the last 28 years and have long led Ohio’s Supreme Court and the General Assembly. Yet despite “jobs” bills and tax cuts, Ohio continues to lag economically and in other crucial areas.
DeWine is a truly good man who will gather good people around himself. Cordray’s staff may be more prickly, like himself.
But a Republican General Assembly that at times has buffaloed John Kasich would be no less likely to buffalo Mike DeWine. Ohio’s next governor must be a foursquare foe of business-as-usual at the Statehouse and a persuasive advocate for fresh approaches to Ohio’s persistent problems.
That is why Ohioans should elect Richard Cordray governor on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Early in-person and absentee voting for the Nov. 6 election has begun. For more resources, consult the League of Women Voters’ voters’ guide.
Contending for Ohio governor on the Nov. 6 ballot are Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine, Democrat Richard Cordray, the Green Party’s Constance Gadell-Newton and Libertarian Travis M. Irvine. DeWine, Cordray and Irvine were interviewed by the editorial board of Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer on Oct. 4, 2018 as part of its endorsement process. Listen to full audio of this interview below:
Editorials express the view of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer — the senior leadership and editorial-writing staff. As is traditional, editorials are unsigned and intended to be seen as the voice of the news organization.