All four of the declared Democratic candidates for Ohio governor have committed to a series of debates beginning in Belmont County on September 12. But much of the focus is on whether a fifth candidate may join them.
The Ohio Democratic Party hopes to hold six gubernatorial debates – three this year and three next. Party Chairman David Pepper says they’ll likely focus on what he says is the damage nearly a decade of Republican control has done to local schools, local governments and local economies.
Former state Rep. Connie Pillich, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni and former Congresswoman Betty Sutton have committed.
Pepper says there will be room on the stage should Richard Cordray – the former Ohio attorney general and current head of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau– enters the race.
But Pepper says time is running short.
“Every month that goes by is precious time in the campaign,” Pepper says. “It’s precious time getting known. It’s precious time to do the part you have to do of raising money. And I think going too far in the fall is getting pretty late.”
Cordray has a year left in his term as head of the consumer bureau, but President Donald Trump is exploring whether he can fire him.
The first debate will be in Martin’s Ferry, in southeast Ohio. Democratic Party Chairman Pepper acknowledges many voters in that region voted for Donald Trump last fall. But he says many also voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and are most focused on change.
“If you’re not in a status quo mood because your community has suffered and you feel like in the last decade things have gotten worse and not better, I think these are voters that, if we do our job, will be very eager to vote for change in 18. And change will be much better represented by the Democratic candidates.”
Like the Ohio Republican Party, Pepper says his party will not endorse any candidate in the primary. Republicans who have declared to succeed Gov. John Kasich -- who is term-limited -- are Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Congressman Jim Renacci, Secretary of State Jon Husted, and Attorney General Mike DeWine.