Gov. DeWine turns down debate invitation without explanation

By: - March 11, 2022 3:50 am

Then Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine debating Richard Cordray in 2018. That debate was also hosted by the Ohio Debate Commission.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine won’t participate in a primary debate later this month hosted by the Ohio Debate Commission. “No reason was given,” according to a commission statement.

The decision comes as more conservative elements of the GOP express growing skepticism with the governor’s administration. Last month at the central committee meeting, a contingent within the party threw up a Hail Mary, making an unsuccessful bid to keep the party from endorsing in the governor’s race.

DeWine’s softening support shows up in his fundraising as well. Despite raising almost as much as he did in his first bid, DeWine is getting fewer donations from individuals. What’s more, those donations are significantly larger on average, and they’re coming from more concentrated geographic areas — particularly around the three Cs.

In a statement, DeWine’s campaign manager Brenton Temple defended their decision not to participate.

“Mike DeWine is the most publicly accessible Governor in Ohio history.” he said. “Governor DeWine meets with constituents on a daily basis and regularly takes questions from the media. Ohioans know where he stands on the issues and that he is fighting and winning for them.”

And DeWine isn’t the only one in his party to look askance at debates. The Republican National Committee has been threatening for months to pass rules barring presidential candidates from participating in debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The governor’s highest profile challenger, former congressman Jim Renacci didn’t pull any punches after the announcement, saying DeWine has governed like a “blue state liberal” and that he’s turned the state into “ground zero for public corruption.”

“I’m not surprised he’s terrified to debate me,” Renacci said in a statement. “But what does shock me is that Governor DeWine thinks so little of the countless Ohio families whose lives he’s harmed, futures he’s ruined and businesses he’s destroyed, that he won’t even take the debate stage to attempt to justify it — let alone apologize for it.”

In a press release, the debate commission seemed at a loss. They noted no other candidate has declined to participate and that the show will go on with those who agreed to join. The commission also pointed out that DeWine participated in 2018 when he was running for governor against Richard Cordray.

“We’re obviously disappointed,” ODC Board President Dan Moulthrop said. “We convene these debates to help voters and, frankly, to help campaigns and candidates connect with voters across the state. We would welcome the Governor reconsidering this decision.”

Debates for both major party’s candidates running for U.S. Senate and governor are slated for March 28th and 29th at Central State University in Wilberforce. The debates will be carried by TV and radio stations around the state as well as streamed live on the debate commission website.



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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.