MARIETTA, Ohio — Ohio’s major party governor candidates both said Monday that they’d veto right-to-work legislation and foster a civil, bipartisan spirit in Ohio government.
And that’s about where the agreements ended between Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray, the former federal consumer watchdog, during their second televised debate.
The two are locked in a tight, expensive race this fall to succeed Republican Gov. John Kasich, who’s term-limited.
DeWine said he would veto right-to-work legislation requiring public employee unions to get annual permission from workers to withhold dues from paychecks.
“We do not need the divisiveness of a fight like this that would take place,” DeWine said. “We have a great opportunity for this state to move forward, and I’m very optimistic about where we’re going, but we can only do it if we concentrate on our major challenges.”
Cordray said he’d also block such a bill, aligning both candidates with Kasich, who’s held off the state’s right-to-work advocates for eight years with his opposition.
But Cordray said he disagrees with DeWine’s stance that such a proposal should be put to voters as a ballot issue. He said voters turned back limits on collective bargaining rights from unionized public employees in 2011.
“The people of this state are very fair,” he said. “They understand that we should have good working conditions and fair working conditions for people who work hard every day.”
Despite pointed jabs during both debates and in their television ads, the candidates pledged to work across political lines to get things done for Ohio — and they said civility is important.
Cordray said when he was Ohio’s state treasurer he, as a Democrat, worked well on budget issues with the Republican-controlled Legislature during the national financial crisis.
“We can do this together, but we have to maintain the right tone in our campaigns as well,” he said. “People have to tell the truth. People can’t lie their way to public office in Ohio. That’s not the right answer.”
DeWine, a former congressman and U.S. senator, pointed to his work across party lines from Washington to Columbus.
“I’m a problem-solver, but I don’t solve the problems by myself,” he said. “If you look at the rape kits, I pulled a group together — I don’t know whether they were Democrats or Republicans — but I pulled people together.”
DeWine appeared to spend the evening continually returning to an upbeat tone, smiling more than in the first debate and talking about his excitement about what his policies can do for Ohio. After the event, he told reporters he found the debate “fun.”
“It is, to me, remarkable that Richard Cordray cannot get through his opening statement without spending most of his opening statement throwing punches,” DeWine told reporters. “As I travel around the state, people tell me, ‘We’re tired of people throwing punches and, really, we want you to tell us what you’re going to do.'”
Cordray, a five-time Jeopardy champion, told reporters that he also enjoyed the debate. But he made no apologies for his efforts to hold DeWine accountable for his record.
“I don’t think it’s uncivil to contrast our records, as long as it’s truthful,” Cordray said. “If we can’t contrast our records, then what information do voters have to go on?”
He said people “should expect some jostling” in politics: “These things really matter. I’m passionate about that. I’m not going to pull my punches.”