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Ohio Doctor Groups Clash Over Governor's Race Endorsements

Mike DeWine and Richard Cordray
Associated Press

Doctors in Ohio sparred Monday over which candidate in the state's fall governor's race is best for health care.

In July, Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine landed the coveted endorsement of the Ohio State Medical Association, the state's largest and oldest physician group.

In a letter sent Monday, nearly 200 doctors and medical students affiliated with the liberal Physicians Action Network objected to that decision, calling Democrat Richard Cordray the better choice.

"We find it disappointing that the Ohio State Medical Association would reject so many of their own positions and endorse a politician whose career opposes what the association and we as physicians value," the Cordray backers wrote.

Their letter cited DeWine's opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act and an earlier statement that the Medicaid expansion would be "unsustainable." DeWine later clarified that he would preserve the expansion, but with improvements, if elected. That key shift helped secure the medical association's endorsement.

"While Mike DeWine may have genuinely had a change of heart regarding Medicaid and pre-existing conditions, the importance of the OSMA's advocacy for doctors and our patients, as well as the fickle nature of politics, requires caution and healthy skepticism," the network's doctors wrote.

The dispute comes two days before DeWine and Cordray are set to face off in the first of three gubernatorial debates. The event Wednesday will take place in Dayton, with subsequent debates in Marietta on October 1 and in Cleveland on October 8.

The medical association's endorsement of DeWine noted DeWine's long record of public service and the government experience held by his running mate, Secretary of State Jon Husted. It also cited DeWine's support for increasing treatment options for opioid addiction, lowering prescription drug costs and reducing physicians' administrative burdens.

Association spokesman Reggie Fields said that group's PAC is a "deeply diverse" group that found DeWine the superior choice.

"(The PAC's board) interviewed both major party candidates for governor and discussed with them issues most relevant to the practice of medicine and for assuring access to quality medical care for patients," Fields said in an email. "The PAC Board believed that Mike DeWine provided clear responses to our questions and outlined an agenda that, if elected, will protect those values."