Ohio’s Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor is challenging her Republican opponent in the race for governor to a debate but doesn’t think he’ll agree to do it.
“Mike DeWine has refused to debate and I think that’s because he knows he loses when he gets on that stage,” said Taylor, a Republican. “I’m for a debate and if you want to host one and invite us I will be here and I hope you encourage my opponents to do the same.”
Taylor and her running mate, businessman Nathan Estruth, spoke Monday during an interview with reporters and editors at the Dayton Daily News. The two paint themselves as the “anti-establishment” candidates running against the “the establishment, career politician ticket” in their primary campaign against Ohio Attorney General DeWine and his running mate, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
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“I have zero faith in the fact that the Republican Party will actually try to instigate (a debate) at this point,” Estruth said.
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Blaine Kelley spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said party officials have not decided if they will host a debate. DeWine’s spokesman said the campaign would be open to discussing one after the Feb. 7 filing deadline.
“We have always said that we are willing to enter debate negotiations after the filing deadline when the primary race is more settled,” said Ryan Stubenrauch, spokesman for the DeWine/Husted campaign.
DeWine and Taylor are the only candidates remaining on the Republican side, while five Democrats are still seeking their party’s nomination.
The Ohio Democratic Party has hosted three formal debates for its candidates, which include Richard Cordray, former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a former Ohio treasurer and attorney general; Dennis Kucinich, former U.S. congressman and former Cleveland mayor; Connie Pillich of Cincinnati, former state representative; Joe Schiavoni, state senator from Boardman; and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill.
Taylor wouldn’t say who she thinks will win the Democratic nomination, but whoever it is would beat DeWine in the general election, she said.
“I will tell you, based on what we are seeing, I am very concerned. I am very concerned as a Republican,” she said. “I am very concerned about the future of this state. I win tough elections and that’s what matters.”
She said in 2006 when she ran for state auditor she was the only Republican to win a statewide race. That same year, DeWine, then a U.S. senator, lost his bid for re-election. Taylor said DeWine lost to Sen. Sherrod Brown that year because he did not stay true to “what he professed to be his conservative principals.”
DeWine’s spokesman said the former Greene County prosecutor has backing from all of the party’s factions. “With all of the support we’ve had from conservatives, county parties, and grassroots activists, it’s clear that Ohio voters overwhelmingly support Mike DeWine and Jon Husted to take on the Democrats in November,” Stubenrauch said.
While Taylor has criticized her opponents for their years in politics, she has been an elected official since 2001 when she became a Green city councilwoman. She became a state representative in 2003 and then was elected state auditor in 2006. She became lieutenant governor in 2011, winning two terms with Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Taylor said that does not make her a “career politician” because she worked as a certified public accountant in the private sector. Also, she said, as an elected official she has “proven that I will challenge the status quo when it doesn’t make sense.”
On issues, Taylor said she wants to fight the opioid crisis by asking voters to approve a bond issue that would fund private sector anti-addiction efforts and she would try to pull the state out of a lawsuit initiated by DeWine against pharmaceutical companies.
Taylor said she wants to repeal but not replace the Affordable Care Act, which provides health insurance to Americans who do not get it through their workplace. Instead, Taylor would support a plan where patients work out deals with their doctors “for the type of care that they want for a low monthly payment and do it all outside of insurance.”
Taylor would appear to be an underdog in the race. A poll last week found her trailing DeWine by 40 points. And campaign finance reports, due Wednesday, will likely show she is behind DeWine in the money race. Asked how her fund-raising is going, Taylor said she does not “need even money with Mike DeWine to win.”
“We will have enough not only to compete, we will have enough to succeed,” Taylor said.
She blamed DeWine for controversy over remarks she made during a closed meeting of the Clermont County Republican Party earlier this month, when she said she had not seen or spoken to Kasich in a year.
Kasich last week disputed her account, saying he had spoken with her in the last year, that he continued to support and endorse her and that she had been “a great and loyal partner.”
“This was intended from the beginning to be a distraction by Mike DeWine and his team,” Taylor said. “Conservatives are starting to solidify around our ticket and it’s making them nervous. This is what the good old boys do. They try to distract you and others from the real issues of this campaign.”
Other stories by Lynn Hulsey