Nationally known pollster and political commentator Frank Luntz sat down with each of the four GOP contender for Ohio governor on Sunday at Genoa Baptist Church, asking them about religion, guns, opiate addiction, John Kasich, Donald Trump and more.
The four candidates – Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted and U.S. Congressman Jim Renacci – appeared on stage separately with Luntz in front of about 650.
Here is what they had to say:
Taylor said she understands the opiate crisis better than most Ohioans, but not by choice: both her adult sons, Joe and Michael, are recovering opioid addicts. Michael has been sober nearly two years while Joe has been sober for six months, she said.
Michael found Joe overdosing at home in his bedroom in January of this year. “He was virtually dead. It took four shots of Narcan to revive him. My family has been through everything. We’ve been through a lot of trauma but I can tell you as a family it has made us stronger,” Taylor said.
Taylor, who has served as Kasich’s lieutenant governor for nearly seven years, broke away from the governor, saying his decision to expand Medicaid did not reflect conservative values. “I was clear with the governor from day one that I did not support Medicaid expansion, and in fact felt that it was sustainable and it wasn’t the right decision for the state of Ohio.”
She said she favors a consumer-driven, market-based health care system.
She said tax cuts, private sector job growth and balanced budgets are examples of the good work Kasich has done. “But we have more work to do. I am not satisfied with the progress that we’ve made.”
Taylor also said she would challenge the National Rifle Association if it were to push for regulation of “bump-stocks” – a device used by the shooter in the Las Vegas massacre that allowed him to convert his guns to shoot like fully automatic rifles.
Renacci, of Wadsworth, said he is somebody who will fight to get things done without compromising his principles. He ticked off items he wants to accomplish: control state spending, review and simplify the tax code, and look at passing a “right-to-work” law that would curb labor union power.
He also said Medicaid expansion, which extends health care to more than 700,000 low-income Ohioans, is “unsustainable.”
Renacci’s voice cracked with emotion when he recalled how Kasich called him when his father died. But that didn’t stop him from offering this critique: “This is problematic. We cannot have a governor who comes in with Republican values and goes out with Democrat values or independent values and think that the state is going in the right direction.”
Renacci, a successful businessman who backed Trump for president, sidestepped a chance to criticize the president. “He speaks in a different way than I would speak but he also is saying what people are thinking,” Renacci said of Trump.
DeWine, of Cedarville, said if he is elected governor, his first step would be to appoint a cabinet-level person to focus on the opiate drug addiction crisis.
“We are losing, 15, 16, 17, 18 people a day. Our foster care system is bursting at the seams because half of all the kids in foster care are there because one or both parents are drug addicts. I think there needs to be a sense of urgency,” he said. DeWine also said he would call for more preventative efforts.
DeWine has served as a county prosecutor, state lawmaker, lieutenant governor, U.S. senator and attorney general. “Every job I’ve held I think I’ve really made a difference. I think I’m a problem solver.”
DeWine said there are kids growing up in very dysfunctional families who need help. Without intervention, they won’t live the American Dream, he said. DeWine said he’ll look at what can be done to give parents more education options for their children.
Husted, of Upper Arlington, said he has worked with governors to pass tax return, establish STEM scholarships and expand school choice for students in failing public schools. Husted said since he graduated high school in the mid-80s, real take home pay has dropped off while the cost of college tuition and child care has more than doubled.
The role of government is to fight for those people, to make sure they have the education and training needed to land good jobs, he said.
Husted named Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln among his political heroes, noting that the two ended slavery, united the nation and rebuilt after the Civil War.
He said Kasich started off as a good governor but took his eye off Ohio when he decided to run for president. “By and large, we were willing to accept that because we voted for him to be our nominee for president. But I think since that time, people have been really frustrated that he didn’t go to Cleveland and support Trump in the convention, that he seems to with his word not support the president or undermine the president on occasion, and that he is not as focused on Ohio as he once was.”
Husted became emotional when he talked about his parents adopting him as a baby and the time he found himself as a single parent.
“When we are blessed, we’re called to serve. I’ve had a lot of blessings that came over the course of the 50 years that I’ve lived here on this planet, and I have to give back,” he said.
Organizers said they invited Democrats but they each declined. Declared candidates in the Democratic primary are: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron and former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati.
Hosting the event was Citizens for Community Values, First Freedom Ohio and United in Purpose — three non-partisan conservative Christian organizations.