The fight to win over voters in the Ohio governor’s race is bitter, ugly and personal.
And that’s just on the Republican side.
The May 8 GOP primary for governor is shaping up as one of the nastiest intra-party battles in recent years.
Across Ohio, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor is on a “made tough” tour, pushing her conservative credentials while Attorney General Mike DeWine is branding himself as a “rock solid conservative” and throwing shade at Taylor, calling her a slacker and using the phrase “lock her up.”
Taylor doesn’t hesitate to punch back. At the Ohio GOP endorsement meeting, she labeled DeWine a career politician and even took a swipe at his wife Fran’s tradition of baking pies and handing out cookbooks.
“Mary Taylor walked up there and made a personal attack on my wife and made a personal attack on me. I think that’s unfortunate,” DeWine said, adding that he is willing to take down any ad mentioning Taylor by name if she does the same.
Taylor said of the acrimony: “Mike DeWine’s campaign has been focused on personally attacking me and slandering me and that’s because he cannot defend his liberal record while he was in the U.S. Senate.”
She has said she won’t vote for DeWine in November if he is the party’s nominee for governor.
DeWine made headlines again last week when he went public with the advice he gave Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, who disclosed during an interview with the Dayton Daily News that he had hired a private defense attorney because the FBI was questioning his activities. DeWine said he called Rosenberger and urged him to resign if he had done anything wrong. Rosenberger did resign, causing several Democrats to pounce, saying DeWine shouldn’t have intervened during an ongoing investigation.
Taylor, too, used the occasion to take a shot at DeWine and what she called the “good old boy network.”
“This is what the Swamp looks like,” she wrote in a statement. “And this is what I am going to erase in state government. While I agree with the Speaker’s decision to step down, there are still many unanswered questions. The first of which is what did Mike DeWine know that prompted his Friday call to the Speaker’s office?”
For his part, DeWine said Rosenberger made the correct decision to resign. “There’s a lot of important work that the Legislature needs to get done,” he said. “The Speaker has acknowledged that his presence is a distraction. It is best if he left now, so that the work of the people is not inhibited.”
Early voting in the primary started on Tuesday. To ensure that voters have the background they need on each of the candidates, and not just what they say about each other, we compiled the following profiles on the two Republicans on the ballot. Look in next Sunday’s paper for profiles of the Democratic candidates. The winner in November will succeed Republican Gov. John Kasich, who is term-limited and will leave office in January.
DeWine, 71, grew up in Greene County, where his family owned a seed business. He has held elected office for most of the past 42 years: Greene County prosecutor, state senate, Congress, lieutenant governor, U.S. Senate and Ohio attorney general, his current job. He married Frances Struewing, whom he met in the first grade, and the couple raised eight children — including Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine. They have 23 grandchildren.
DeWine is running on his extensive experience: he touts his efforts to clear a backlog of untested rape kits stockpiled by local police departments, resulting in 4,578 DNA matches to potential suspects in the cold cases; he earmarked $75 million from a national mortgage settlement to help local communities demolish abandoned properties; his office worked to improve police training standards and combat human trafficking; and as an abortion opponent DeWine has defended the state’s abortion restrictions and joined in the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare.
DeWine’s record on gun rights is mixed. He has a C-plus rating from the NRA, which hasn’t been updated since 2014. As a U.S. senator, DeWine supported gun restrictions including an assault weapon ban and a waiting period on sales at gun show,s and in 2006 he had the endorsement of the Brady Campaign, a gun control advocacy group.
Related: Firms gave heavily to DeWine, GOP
As attorney general, though, DeWine has expanded reciprocity agreements to allow Ohio CCW permit holders to carry weapons in other states, supported local school districts’ efforts to arm teachers, and filed amicus briefs to oppose federal restrictions on guns. In February, the Buckeye Firearms Association PAC endorsed DeWine.
DeWine has substantial financial means: The DeWine family purchased the Asheville Tourists, a minor league baseball team in North Carolina, in 2010; DeWine reports that he owns nearly 1,000 acres of farmland; and he loaned his campaign $1 million.
As attorney general, DeWine last year filed a lawsuit against major drug makers and major distributors — a move critics complain came late in the opiate addiction crisis ripping through Ohio. The lawsuit alleges that five pharmaceutical giants marketed powerfully addictive prescription pain killers, contributing to the deadly opiate addiction crisis in Ohio. But the spike in opiate cases led to a significant testing backlog in the state crime labs, which DeWine oversees.
As governor, DeWine wants to have the authority to declare a public health emergency, improve data analytics for law enforcement, expand the use of drug task forces and specialized drug courts, double drug treatment capacity, step up anti-drug education in K-12 schools, and expand early intervention programs for families and children in foster care.
When asked about expanded Medicaid, which provides drug treatment to tens of thousands of low-income Ohioans, DeWine said he wants to seek permission from the federal government to improve cost controls and the quality of care and require able-bodied recipients work in exchange for coverage.
“Medicaid expansion as we’re seeing it now is not sustainable,” DeWine said.
Like his opponent, DeWine says the workforce skills gap, education and the opiate crisis are intertwining issues that will take priority in his administration, particularly as they impact children.
“Our unfinished business is we got too many kids who are languishing out there for a number of reasons. If Ohio is to have a great future, which we believe it will, we have got to get more kids living up to their God-given potential. That’s our focus,” he said.
Taylor is a 52-year-old tax accountant who served on the Green City Council before joining the Ohio House in 2003. She won the state auditor’s seat in 2006 — her first statewide run — and joined the Kasich ticket as lieutenant governor four years later. She served as state insurance director from 2011 to 2017.
Taylor is married to Donzell “Don” Taylor, an Akron area builder, and they have two adult sons — Michael and Joe, who are both recovering from opiate addiction.
Taylor opened up about their sons’ addictions in a story published last June in the Dayton Daily News.
“When you’re in a crisis mode, every day is ‘just get by, get through.’ And we are not there today,” Taylor said then of her family’s ordeal. “We are not out of the woods, but we’re not in a crisis mode.”
The Taylor family has substantial financial means: She loaned her campaign $3 million and she reported that her husband owns 43 businesses.
Taylor opposes attempts to limit 2nd Amendment gun rights, has an A rating from the National Rifle Association and holds a permit to carry a concealed weapon; she opposes abortion, without exceptions; she wants a full repeal of Obamacare, which includes eliminating expanded Medicaid coverage for 725,000 low-income Ohioans and replacing it with a market-driven program.
It’s one of the issues that separates her from Kasich, although he has endorsed her. But on the campaign trail, Taylor has sounded more like President Donald Trump, including calling for border wall construction, a crackdown on sanctuary cities and “restore the rule of law to our nation’s immigration system.”
Taylor touts her work with the Kasich administration’s “Common Sense Initiative” — which reviews proposed business regulations before they go into effect. Since January 2012, nearly 13,000 have undergone CSI review and 1,049 have been rescinded, according to a recent report.
To combat the opioid crisis, she plans to ask voters to approve up to $1 billion in bonds to pay for loans and grants given to private sector groups providing treatment and recovery services and put more narcotics cops on the streets.
Taylor points to a workforce skills gap as Ohio’s biggest problem. Her fixes include ending Common Core education standards and allowing local districts to design curriculum; simplifying high school graduation requirements; marketing the state to 28-year-old to 35-year-old Ohio natives who may want to return home; and addressing the addiction crisis so employers can find workers able to pass drug tests.
“We want Ohioans to know and understand that they have a true conservative choice in this race,” she said, “and it’s Mary Taylor.”