Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray held off a primary challenge from former Congressman and Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich on Tuesday, according to projections from the Associated Press.
The match-up was closely watched across the nation as the two well-known liberal Democrats fought it out in a bellwether state. Cordray, the former head of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, had the backing of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and President Obama while Kucinich courted voters from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party.
The early returns show that Cordray will face off against Republican Mike DeWine, who fended off a primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. It’ll be a rematch from 2010 when DeWine and Cordray ran against one another for attorney general — a race in which DeWine unseated Cordray, the incumbent.
In a 12-minute victory speech Tuesday, Cordray seemed ready to take on DeWine.
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“I’ve spent my entire career fighting for Ohio consumers, retirees and families,” Cordray said. “Meanwhile, Mike DeWine has been serving those at the top, enabling powerful interests to have their way in Washington and now Columbus. Instead of being an advocate, he let Ohioans be taken advantage of for too long, costing us too much and undermining our future.”
Jon Thompson, spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, said in a written statement: “With Richard Cordray, Ohio Democrats have chosen a Washington D.C. power-hungry insider as their standard bearer. Richard Cordray’s extreme liberal agenda and record of mismanagement would take Ohio backwards, and harm the work being done to create good-paying jobs and tackle the opioid crisis. Hillary Clinton’s policies are back on the ballot this year in Ohio, under the name Richard Cordray – and just as they did to Hillary, Ohio voters will reject Cordray’s out-of-touch campaign.”
After that Cordray lost in 2010, President Obama appointed Cordray to the CFPB, a post that removed him from politics but gave him enormous power to crackdown on financial industry abuses. Cordray has said that his actions returned $12-billion to 30 million Americans.
Cordray, an Obama administration holdover in the Trump era, stepped down early so he could return to Ohio to run for governor. In the campaign, Cordray has been largely focused on what he calls “kitchen table” issues such as affordable health care and college, jobs and wages and pension security.
Former state senator Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat who heads Our Revolution, which backed Kucinich, said “Dennis Kucinich and Tara Samples ran a strong campaign that won support across a wide spectrum of Ohioans. While they did not succeed in winning the Democratic nomination, they ran a campaign that focused on the issues that matter most to Ohioans—affordable health care, a living wage, protecting our environment, getting military-grade weapons off the streets, and addressing the opioid epidemic.”
Cordray’s entrance into the primary led Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and former state representative Connie Pillich to exit the race and former Congresswoman Betty Sutton to join Cordray as his running mate.
Ohio’s next governor faces daunting challenges: fixing a chronically under-funded unemployment compensation fund, working with public colleges and universities to help train future workers and produce graduates who aren’t swamped in debt, addressing the opiate addiction crisis that killed more than 4,000 Ohioans in 2016 and determining whether to continue the expanded Medicaid program that covers an additional 725,000 low-income residents.
Cordray said he will make government a powerful force for good and he pledged to crackdown on payday lending industry practices that led to some of the highest interest rates in the country.
“It is perfectly legal in Ohio to charge 594 percent interest on loans that ruin people’s lives. That is wrong,” he said. “These are the same predatory lenders I have fought for years while Mike DeWine said and did nothing to stop them.”