Republican Dave Yost and Democrat Steve Dettlebach are battling to be Ohio’s next attorney general.
The state attorney general serves as the top cop in the state and the state’s chief legal advisor. From the ECOT scandal to white-collar crime and the opioid crisis, both candidates spoke to NBC4 about what they want to do for Ohio.
Yost is Ohio’s current state auditor, and he says there are some things about the criminal code the state needs to rethink, especially when it comes to the opioid epidemic.
“It’s the same offense to possess less than 10 doses of heroin as it is to traffic. That makes no sense,” Yost said. “The trafficker, the drug dealer, is doing a viral harm to our society. It should be a more serious offense.”
Yost also said that while he doesn’t want to see addiction be a felony in the state, he is not backing Issue 1.
“It has a good premise, but it goes too far,” he said. “Possession of enough fentanyl to kill 10,000 people would be a misdemeanor that you get probation for.”
Yost said that the state’s drug laws should be written by the legislature and have no place in the state constitution.
Yost also responded to criticism that he accepted donations from ECOT but did not handle the scandal effectively.
“Almost everything we know about community schools and charter schools comes from my work,” he said. “We have been working since 2013. We did a headcount and found schools that were overcharging and overbilling their student population. All the way through, we got the law changed in 2015 and 2016 to get better information and tighter controls.”
He said that those very controls ultimately led to the audit that his office sent to federal prosecutors.
Yost also pointed to is background as a prosecutor for Delaware County, and said that experience is beneficial to being the state’s top law enforcement.
“I did everything from drug cases to murder, from sexual offenses to simple theft and organized crime,” he explained. “We have done things that the Attorney General’s office supports local offices doing.”
Yost’s opponent, Dettlebach, served as a federal prosecutor for more than two decades and said that experience is paramount to being the next Attorney General and that corruption is plaguing the state government.
“People are looking at what is going on in the state. They see a pay-to-play culture,” Dettlebach said.
Dettlebach has positioned himself as an outsider in this race, pointing to his history as a prosecutor as opposed to Yost’s career in elected office.
“Dave has been a career politician. He has run for office for 25 years,” he said. “I have served putting bad guys in jail for the last 25 years.”
Dettlebach said that ECOT and the state’s opioid crisis are two of his top priorities if he is elected.
“[The ECOT] scandal resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars being siphoned away from our kids and given to donors,” he said.
Dettlebach pointed to the donation ECOT associates made to Yost, and even though Yost gave that money away, Dettlebach said the public needs an Attorney General they can trust.
“The truth of the matter is, we need somebody who can actually pursue a corruption case, pursue a fraud case against anybody, no matter who they gave money to,” he said.
Dettlebach said that his career as a U.S. Attorney has given him the experience needed to carry out Ohio’s laws.
“I did cases ranging from terrorism cases and huge corporate fraud cases to cases involving drug cartels,” he said.