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DeWine, Cordray Trade Jabs Over Opioids, Abortion In First Governor's Debate

Mike DeWine and Richard Cordray
Gary Landers
Associated Press
Republican Mike DeWine (left) and Democrat Richard Cordray squared off in the first Ohio Governor debate at the University of Dayton on Thursday.

Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray went head-to-head in their first debate in the race for governor. The two traded jabs in what escalated into a heated debate over their records.

DeWine didn’t pull any punches against Cordray.

“You know Richard you’re all talk and you do nothing. You’ve been a failure in every job you’ve ever had,” DeWine said.

And Cordray came out swinging from the start.

“He believes that after 42 years in office, he’s entitled to be governor,” Corday said.

The two seasoned politicians vying for the state’s top office battled over several issues ranging from economic development and college affordability to the opioid crisis.

Cordray says he would support cracking down on drug trafficking while diverting more money to treatment centers.

Cordray then went after DeWine, who’s served as Ohio’s Attorney General for the last eight years, for wanting to appoint an opioid czar if he were governor.

“News flash, we’ve had an opioid czar in Ohio for the past eight years and his name is Mike DeWine, when you see him tell him he’s done a lousy job,” Cordray said.

DeWine counters by saying the opioid epidemic started under Cordray’s watch as attorney general.

“Absolutely amazing Richard, absolutely amazing. When you left the attorney general’s office, we already had a crisis in the drug problem, you did absolutely nothing,” DeWine said.

DeWine went on to say that Medicaid expansion, which he supports will changes he hasn’t fully outlined, will continue to help fund programs to help people with an addiction in Ohio.

The two went on to spar over gun control. DeWine says he has a detailed plan in place to help reduce gun violence. The plan includes putting a mental health expert in every school, update criminal records and support the so-called “red flag law” which confiscates guns from a person exhibiting violent behavior.

“I support the red flag law as long as it’s constitutional, as long as there’s due process," DeWine said.

Cordray criticized DeWine’s plan as skirting the actual issue of regulating guns.

“You have never been willing to push the Legislature at all to make any progress in taking guns out of the hands of criminals, taking guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, taking guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers,” Cordray said.

DeWine and Cordray found themselves on opposite ends when it comes to abortion and both were asked how they would handle the “Heartbeat Bill” which would ban an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Cordray says he would veto the bill.

“A woman’s right to choose, a woman’s right to make her own personal health decisions should be protected in Ohio,” Cordray said.

DeWine says he would sign the bill.

“I’m pro-life, I believe that government exists to protect the most vulnerable people. That includes the unborn and the born. I think for any woman in a troubled pregnancy we have to work with her, we have to help her, we have to give her any assistance that we can,” DeWine said.

The topic of recreational marijuana is one that could possibly come up in the next four years for whoever becomes governor. With a failed ballot issue a few years ago and a law on medicinal marijuana in effect, though the program isn’t operational yet, both candidates were asked what they thought about recreational use.

DeWine says states that have legalized pot are seeing a major backlash with an increase in use among young people.

“I’m against it. I will veto it. It is wrong. I went to Colorado to look at how it’s going out there and you should take that trip yourself it’s an absolute disaster, you have babies, little toddlers who are going to the emergency room eating gummy bears with marijuana in them,” DeWine said.

Cordray replied, “You have been living in the past and you’re still living in the past."

He believes it should go to the voters.

“I have said that it should be on the ballot because I respect the voters of the state who voted it down when it goes to the ballot I will cast my vote yes to legalize it,” Cordray said.

The two traded familiar barbs when it comes to ECOT, the online charter school that overbilled the state by more than $80 million; and on state Issue 1 which would reduce prison sentencing for non-violent drug offenders in favor of treatment.

The next debate between DeWine and Cordray will be in Marietta October 1.