Watch: DeWine, Cordray trade fiery jabs in first debate in Dayton

Drugs, their record as attorney general spark most heated moments at the University of Dayton.

The two men seeking to become Ohio’s next governor engaged in a feisty debate Wednesday night, drawing contrasts between each other on key issues facing the state’s 11.7 million residents.

>> WATCH the full Ohio governor's debate here

Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine debated for one hour at the University of Dayton, exchanging barbs — about each others records as state attorney general — and ideas — about drugs, the opioid crisis and state support for Ohio’s urban core.

Following a coin toss before the debate, Cordray took the first question: When you look in the mirror, why you?

VIDEO: Candidates on education

Cordray, who was first elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1990, said the governor’s office is another rung on the ladder for DeWine, who was first elected to the Ohio Senate in 1980.


“I am motivated to stand up to people and fight back and make it right,” Cordray said, citing his time as state treasurer, attorney general and director of the federal Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. “I will make sure we get money back in your pockets and we have a brighter future in this state.”

DeWine rebutted, drawing a contrast on how the two candidates believe drug offences should be prosecuted and sentenced.

VIDEO: Why should you be elected?

“He is advocating — I want you to listen to this — something in the state of Ohio that is totally outrageous,” DeWine said, criticizing Cordray for support of Issue 1, which would, among other things, convert felony 4 and felony 5 drug possession and drug use crimes to misdemeanors with no jail time for first and second offenses committed within a 24-month period.

“I cracked down on drug traffickers when I was attorney general … You have been in charge of this opioid crisis for the last eight years,” Cordray responded, arguing that taking advice from DeWine on the crisis would be akin to “asking for navigation advice from the captain of the Titanic.”

“Richard, you’re living in a fantasy world,” DeWine later said in the evening, later adding he was “a failure at every job you’ve ever had.”

DeWine accused Cordray of leaving a host of problems when DeWine was elected attorney general in 2010. Among other roles, DeWine has served as U.S. senator and lieutenant governor.

VIDEO: What will you do about the economy?

News Center 7 anchor James Brown moderated the debate. Candidates took questions from Dayton Daily News Columbus Bureau reporter Laura A. Bischoff, News Center 7 reporter and WHIO Reports host Jim Otte and UD assistant political science professor Christopher Devine.

Cox Media Group Ohio, the publisher of the Dayton Daily News, served as media partner for the debate at UD’s Daniel J. Curran Place, the former NCR Corp. world headquarters.

Following the recent Frontline/ProPublica “Left Behind America” program, which has sparked heated conversation about the problems facing Dayton, the candidates were asked if the state government should do more to help urban areas rebuild.

DeWine said, “I will be a friend of local government,” citing his working relationship with area chambers of commerce and local governments, and he talked about protecting Wright-Patterson Air Force base jobs.

“We want to be prepared the next time there is a BRAC, the next time there is a realignment,” DeWine said. “Not only do we have an opportunity to not lose jobs, but we have a great opportunity to gain jobs as well.”

Cordray said the governor must do more to those who have not been part of the economic recovery.

“There’s some very good things happening in this community and particularly at Wright-Patt,” he said, “but I’ve also been around the state and many people feel left out and left behind.”

Cordray talked about working with small businesses, improving the state’s infrastructure and developing more clean energy. He said, “We need to create an economy that works not just for some of us, not just for those at the top, but for all of us.”

VIDEO: What will you do about the opioid crisis?


POLL RESULTS: Laura Bischoff reports on where the race stands

DeWine countered to Cordray: “You have a whole track record of failure. We are in the building where NCR was that left on your watch and Ted Strickland’s. General Motors left Dayton on your watch.”

The two men also shared their stances on schools, guns and President Trump, trying to contrast their positions for voters.

Cordray said he would vote in favor of legalized recreational marijuana if the issue were brought before Ohio voters. DeWine said he would oppose such a move.

Also on the statewide ballot for governor but not participating in the debate were Libertarian candidate Travis Irvine, a comedian and freelance journalist in the Columbus area; and Green Party candidate Constance Gadell Newton, an attorney based in Columbus. The threshold for a candidate to participate in UD’s debate was at least 10 percent support in statewide polls. Neither Irvine or Newton have met that threshold.

A survey of likely voters conducted by Baldwin Wallace University between Sept. 5 and 15 shows DeWine with a slight lead over Cordray: 41.8 percent to 37 percent, but with 21.3 percent undecided. The poll was released Tuesday.

Protesters: Protesters are lining up in front of the debate hall. Planned Parenthood, Green Party supporters and backers of Mike DeWine and Rich Cordray were among the early arrivals.

RELATED: Our Chris Stewart is on the scene with the latest from the protesters


UD proud to host debate: After years of discussions and weeks of work, now it comes down to just a few hours: The University of Dayton will host the first 2018 Ohio gubernatorial debate tonight at Daniel J. Curran Place.

Did you miss it? The full debate is available at It is also available on-demand on the WHIO app for streaming devices like Roku, Amazon Fire, and Apple TV. Speak out Tell us what you thought of the debate and what issues you care about on our Ohio Politics Facebook page. Follow our team on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics Stay informed Sign up for our daily Ohio Politics newsletter on our website. 

Eric Spina, UD president, sounded a confident note this morning, saying the university community is ready.

“For many years, we have been letting folks know that we would love to host an important debate in the state election cycle,” Spina said.


“Earlier this year, we engaged with the Ohio Debate Commission. I think one of outshoots of that conversation is that we were approached to host this debate.”

RELATED: UD ready for first governor debate tonight


Earlier look at the debate hall Wednesday afternoon: The debate hall at the University of Dayton is shaping up.

"This is a remarkable opportunity to showcase the University of Dayton," said University President Eric F. Spina. "UD is a powerhouse of research, civic engagement and academic excellence and hosting an elite, high-profile event like the first gubernatorial debate is a great way to increase our visibility.”

Here’s a look at how the venue is looking:


Cordray picks up police union backing

Amid charges back and forth over testing rape kits and availability of bulletproof vests, Democratic candidate Richard Cordray Tuesday highlighted the endorsement of a second police union as evidence that rank-and-file law enforcement backs him for governor over Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine.


RELATED: Libertarians threaten legal action to get into governor debates

The Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the state’s second-largest police union with 7,000 active and retired members, endorsed Mr. Cordray after endorsing Mr. DeWine in 2014 for attorney general. The union joins the much larger Fraternal Order of Police in Mr. Cordray’s camp. ASSOCIATED PRESS


Ohio doctor groups divided over governor’s race endorsement

Doctors in Ohio sparred Monday over which candidate in the state's fall governor's race is best for health care.

In July, Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine landed the coveted endorsement of the Ohio State Medical Association, the state's largest and oldest physician group.  In a letter sent Monday, nearly 200 doctors and medical students affiliated with the liberal Physicians Action Network objected to that decision, calling Democrat Richard Cordray the better choice.

"We find it disappointing that the Ohio State Medical Association would reject so many of their own positions and endorse a politician whose career opposes what the association and we as physicians value," the Cordray backers wrote.


Their letter cited DeWine's opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act and an earlier statement that the Medicaid expansion would be "unsustainable." DeWine later clarified that he would preserve the expansion, but with improvements, if elected.

That key shift helped secure the medical association's endorsement.

"While Mike DeWine may have genuinely had a change of heart regarding Medicaid and pre-existing conditions, the importance of the OSMA's advocacy for doctors and our patients, as well as the fickle nature of politics, requires caution and healthy skepticism," the network's doctors wrote.


The medical association's endorsement of DeWine noted DeWine's long record of public service and the government experience held by his running mate, Secretary of State Jon Husted. It also cited DeWine's support for increasing treatment options for opioid addiction, lowering prescription drug costs and reducing physicians' administrative burdens. ASSOCIATED PRESS



• Who is Richard Cordray?

• Who is Mike DeWine?


• Opioid crisis

• Guns and school safety

• Medicaid

• Jobs and the economy

• Taxes

• Funds for local governments

• Higher education

About the Authors