Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley during Tuesday’s debate

Democratic governor candidates focus on jobs, addiction in debate

The four Democrats running for governor in 2018 each promised to fight for good paying jobs, invest in education, crack down on failing charter schools and provide leadership for Ohio.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich for backing tax cuts and imposing steep state funding cuts on local governments and schools. And she unloaded on Auditor Dave Yost and “the Statehouse crowd” for just now realizing that charter schools need more accountability and accused them of turning a blind eye to the problem because they receive campaign contributions from charter school companies.

“I’m a mayor. I’m where the rubber meets the road. The statehouse crowd doesn’t even know where the road is,” Whaley said.

Whaley, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron and former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati each participated in a 90-minute forum in Martins Ferry, in eastern Ohio. With four candidates not well know outside their home regions, the Ohio Democratic Party is holding a series of debates to showcase the declared contenders.

State Sen Joe Schiavoni in Tuesday’s debate.

“False claims and more broken promises isn’t going to move our state forward,” Whaley said. “What will move our state forward is an executive who has gotten stuff done in the reddest part of the state. We need a governor who acts boldly, who takes action. A governor who isn’t afraid to face our challenges head on.”

The race is 420 days away.

State Rep. Connie Pillich at Tuesday’s debate.

When it comes to addressing the opioid crisis, all four recognized it as a public health crisis that needs action on all fronts: prevention, education, treatment, recovery and enforcement. Schiavoni noted that he is sponsoring a bill to earmark $200 million from the state’s rainy day fund to combat the opioid crisis. And Whaley said the city of Dayton filed a lawsuit against drug manufacturers that marketed powerfully addictive painkillers to Ohioans, saying the case is about “justice” for taxpayers, communities and families.

It is unclear if TV talk show host Jerry Springer, former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinch or former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray will enter the Democratic primary for governor.

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The debate was moderated by Janetta King of Innovation Ohio, a left-leaning research and advocacy group. It was held in in Belmont County — an area won by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016.

Former Congresswoman Betty Sutton at Tuesday’s debate.

In the Republican primary, the declared candidates are Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine of Cedarville, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted of Upper Arlington, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor of Green.

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