Republican Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, one of the state’s best-known politicians, and Democrat Richard Cordray, who headed a federal consumer protection agency in the Obama administration, are headed into their third career match-up this fall after a raucous roller-coaster of a primary season left them damaged as they seek to replace Republican Gov. John Kasich.
November’s general election will feature two moderates who fought off challenges from the Republican right and the Democratic left.
DeWine’s victory over Kasich’s lieutenant governor, Mary Taylor, followed a bitter and expensive campaign in which Taylor likened DeWine’s record to that of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and questioned his loyalty to President Donald Trump.
The 71-year-old DeWine served two terms in the U.S. Senate. He was endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party and was bolstered by his partnership with Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, who dropped his own governor bid to become DeWine’s running mate.
Cordray, who’s 59 years old, faced a surprisingly rigorous primary challenge from former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Cordray led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Democratic Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, under Obama, a Democrat, and Trump, a Republican. He featured Obama in his ads and campaigned with Warren.
But Kucinich, a feisty former Cleveland mayor who twice ran for president, energized voters with a liberal anti-gun, pro-environment platform. He attacked Cordray as an “establishment Democrat” whose pragmatism equaled a willingness to compromise his principles to special interests.
Kucinich’s efforts were ultimately hurt by revelations that he had taken a $20,000 speaking fee from a group sympathetic to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Kucinich said he’d return the money.
Cordray’s victory buoys Democratic hopes of reclaiming control of a critical battleground state, where Kasich is term-limited. He will lead one of the party’s strongest statewide tickets in recent memory into the fall on a campaign that’s expected to focus on the candidates’ efforts against consumer fraud, political corruption and voter disenfranchisement.
But DeWine has defeated Cordray before, in a close race for state attorney general in 2010. And Cordray lost a four-way Democratic primary in 2000 for the seat held by DeWine, who was in his first Senate term.
Cordray’s lively primary against Kucinich and two other main contenders, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, of Boardman, and former state Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, was viewed as a beneficial public vetting for him.
Republicans hope to hold on to the seat held by Kasich, a two-term governor and 2016 presidential contender.