Video: Watch Sunday’s Democratic governor candidates debate

Ohio statehouse

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Ohio statehouse

Democratic candidates for their party's Ohio gubernatorial nomination are sparring this morning at 10TV in Columbus, sifting through the opioid crisis, school funding, jobs and other issues facing the state.

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The candidates are former state Rep. Connie Pillich, D-Montgomery, State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley Twp. and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

Whaley had the first opening statement among the four. She described herself as a “progressive mayor in the reddest part of the state.”

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“A true leader leads with her vision and isn’t afraid of bold new ideas and change,” she said.

For his opener, Schiavoni talked a bit about his background and the state’s opioid crisis. Sutton talked of her role in helping to create the “cash for clunkers” federal program that she says helped keep workers in auto-related jobs in Ohio. Pillich, for her part, said she sees infrastructure problems across the state that need attention.

“The Ohio I want to see is one where we grow a new middle class,” said Pillich.

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Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley

Credit: HANDOUT

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley

Credit: HANDOUT

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Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

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Whaley was asked about Trump’s declaration Thursday that the national opioid crisis is a public health emergency and about a new Ohio State University study showing that, at best, Ohio has the capacity to treat only 20 to 40 percent of those affected by the problem.

The mayor said Dayton sees the effects of the crisis daily.

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“We have to make sure that there’s access (to treatment) available, and we have to hold the big drug companies accountable … they should pay for it, and as governor, I will make sure they do on day 1,” Whaley said.

“We’re either going to pay to help them (addicts) or we’re going to pay to incarcerate them, so we need to pick our poison here,” Schiavoni said.

Sutton called the crisis Ohio’s “hurricane.” And Pillich said her “first line of defense” as governor would be to make sure that Ohioans have good jobs.

Whaley said the crisis is affecting “every part of our community.” She argues that the the Ohio General Assembly has been reactive and “flat-footed” when it comes to this problem.

“They think if they close their eyes and click their heels, the problem will just go away,” Whaley said.

On jobs, the candidates targeted the performance of Gov. John Kasich’s administration.

“Why should Ohioans vote to change course and go with a Democrat,” moderator Scott Light asked the quartet of candidates.

“When you go and talk to people in the communities, people are struggling,” Schiavoni said.

Sutton said Ohioans are working two to three jobs “just to keep their heads above water.”

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Formr lawmaker Connie Pillich, left, and Ohio Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, are running for Ohio  governor.

Formr lawmaker Connie Pillich, left, and Ohio Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, are running for Ohio  governor.

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Formr lawmaker Connie Pillich, left, and Ohio Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, are running for Ohio  governor.

“We can do a lot better in this state,” she said.

Pillich said the next governor needs to make “good-paying jobs” the top priority.

And targeting what some in the Kasich administration tout as the “Ohio miracle” — what the administration says is the state’s solid economic recovery from the Great Recession — Whaley mentioned a woman she knows, who is working a second job to make ends meet.

“The Ohio miracle is not getting to Nancy’s pocket,” the Dayton mayor said.

Schiavoni suggested bringing players from business, education and labor together to carve new pathways to training and hiring qualified new workers.

“Democrats don’t have to be anti-business, and Republicans don’t have to be anti-labor,” the senator said.

Candidates also called for investment in Head Start programs, pre-natal health care for expectant moms, community learning centers and education for children from infancy to age three.

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Betty Sutton

Betty Sutton

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Betty Sutton

“It starts with the parents. The parents need to make sure they have the tools they need to take care of kids,” Whaley said, saying the city of Dayton was the first city government in the state to approve paid parental leave for employees.

Whaley also noted that she agrees with Kasich’s embrace of Medicaid expansion in Ohio, while lamenting Congress’ inability to craft any kind of health legislation “that makes sense.”

Sutton, who was in Congress when the Affordable Care Act was passed, said she will be President Trump’s “fiercest opponent” if Congress continues to “try to rip away” health care from Ohioans.

The Ohio gubernatorial election is Nov. 8, 2018. Democratic and Republican primary votes will be May 8. Incumbent Kasich cannot seek a third term.

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