- Laura A. Bischoff Columbus Bureau
The four men running in the Democratic primary for Ohio governor agreed on plenty of issues but it sure didn’t sound like it in their first debate.
Bill O’Neill called Richard Cordray “Prince Richard,” saying that the Ohio Democratic Party is ready for a coronation.
Joe Schiavoni hammered Dennis Kucinich for repeatedly meeting with Syrian President Bashar al Assad. “There is no excuse for meeting with a guy who is poisoning kids in his country,” he said. (Kucinich defended meeting Assad in pursuit of world peace.)
Cordray hit Kucinich for his previous call for the impeachment of President Obama.
The 90-minute sparring session marked the first debate with the newly shuffled line-up of Democrats: Cordray, Kucinich, O’Neill and Schiavoni. The three women who had been in the race along with Schiavoni each made an exit — Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former state representative Connie Pillich and former U.S. representative Betty Sutton abandoned their gubernatorial campaigns.
The televised debate, held at a Toledo area high school, covered topics ranging from gun control, the opiate addiction crisis, legalizing marijuana, right to work and President Donald Trump.
Right to work: Each said they’d veto any right-to-work bill that reaches their desk and that they would fight for workers. Cordray and Kucinich said they support raising the minimum wage.
Gun control: O’Neill said he wants to require AR-15 owners register their weapons and get a permit from local police; Kucinich called for a ban on assault-style weapons; Schiavoni supports more school safety and services and holding a conversation about an assault weapon ban; and Cordray, who has an A rating from the National Rifle Association, said he supports tightening gun laws and keeping guns away from criminals, people with mental illness and domestic abusers.
Legal marijuana: Kucinich and O’Neill called for full legalization of marijuana. Cordray said Ohio should only take that step with a statewide vote.
Trump: Each said they’d work with Trump when he is right and oppose him when he is wrong. Kucinich added that he supports the proposed tariffs on steel that the president is pushing.
Medicaid expansion: They support this program but O’Neill and Kucinich called for an expansion of Medicare to cover all Ohioans. Schiavoni and Cordray said they’d like to know how that could be funded.
“The most important thing we can do in Columbus is change the numbers. If we don’t win this year then everything we say on this stage tonight is so just so much hot air, it doesn’t mean a thing. We have to win this year,” Cordray said.
The winner of the May 8 Democratic primary will go up against the winner of the GOP primary, either Attorney General Mike DeWine or Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.
DeWine, who won the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party, has indicated he won’t debate Taylor before the primary, saying he’s more interested in debating in the fall.