Democrat jumps in to 2018 Ohio attorney general’s race

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Former federal prosecutor Steven Dettelbach announced Tuesday that he’s running for Ohio attorney general in 2018, likely facing off against Republican Dave Yost, who is now state auditor.

Dettelbach is positioning himself as an independent outsider who will protect consumers, hold the powerful accountable, investigate charter schools and fight the opiate addiction crisis.

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“I spent the last 20 years as federal prosecutor and what I’ve discovered is that the law can be a great force to help people. It can protect people who are vulnerable and it can hold people who are powerful accountable but it doesn’t happen by itself. It takes people to fight for fairness,” Dettelbach told this newspaper. “For me, the focus is fighting for ordinary, working people in Ohio.”

Dettelbach, of Cleveland, served during six years of the Obama administration as the U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Ohio.

Yost reported in January that his campaign committee has $1.1 million in cash on hand while Dettelbach reported a balance of $222,128.

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Dettelbach said he helped form a task force to address the opiate addiction crisis in northeast Ohio through enforcement, prevention and treatment. “I know first hand that we are not going to prosecute or arrest our way out of this problem.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who is running for governor, has suggested pharmaceutical companies be forced to clean up the opiate addiction mess.

“I don’t know the merits of the case or the individual arguments but any time when there is the kind of harm done to Ohio that has been done — we are leading the nation in per capita opioid deaths. That is not somewhere you want to be. So when you have that kind damage done to people, I think you got to look at every legal opportunity to protect people who have been harmed,” Dettelbach said of whether he would sue pharmaceutical companies on behalf of Ohio. “You got to look at a case where there is billions and billions of dollars in damage and thousands of people who are dead.”

The attorney general runs the largest public interest law firm in the state with more than 1,500 employees. The office prosecutes Medicaid fraud, runs crime labs, operates a police training academy, collects public debt and is the lawyer for state entities, including public pension systems and universities.

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