National News

Here Are Ohio Newspaper Endorsements for Governor in Tuesday’s Primary

Posted May 5, 2018 2:51 p.m. EDT

As Ohio prepares for a competitive primary Tuesday, the editorial pages of some of its largest newspapers have weighed in on who they think should clinch the Democratic and Republican nominations for governor.

Dennis Kucinich, a former congressman, and Richard A. Cordray, a former state attorney general, have led the pack on the Democratic side, while Mike DeWine, a former U.S. senator, and Mary Taylor, the current lieutenant governor, have dominated the Republican race to replace Gov. John R. Kasich, a term-limited Republican.

The winners compete in November for an office that has been held by a Republican for 24 out of the last 28 years.

Here’s where things stand going into Tuesday’s primary.

— On the Republican side

President Donald Trump won Ohio by 8 points and the Republican Party has dominated state politics for three decades, but only two major newspapers there made an endorsement in the Republican primary this year. They both backed DeWine.

The meager number of endorsements is in some ways a feature, not a bug, of the Ohio media landscape. The editorial boards of two of its largest papers, The Columbus Dispatch and The Toledo Blade, do not make primary endorsements, and a third, The Cincinnati Enquirer, doesn’t endorse candidates at any stage of an election, representatives for those papers said.

But those that did liked DeWine. The Plain Dealer, in Cleveland, cited his “experience and practicality.” He has held a long list of government positions, including U.S. senator, member of the House of Representatives, Ohio attorney general and Ohio lieutenant governor.

The Akron Beacon Journal also endorsed DeWine. It called him “testy and evasive” but said he had the experience and “capacity to learn” that is required of a successful governor.

But The Vindicator, in Youngstown, excoriated him and declined to make an endorsement in the Republican race. It said it refused to endorse DeWine because “he dropped the ball on a major public-corruption case” in their city in 2014.

It declined to endorse Taylor because of her “extreme views” on abortion, Medicaid expansion and gun control. (She opposes all of them.)

— On the Democratic side

When faced with the task of endorsing a candidate in the Democratic primary, Ohio’s newspapers did not have many ways to distinguish between Cordray and Kucinich.

That turned the question of who to endorse into a matter of style. Should the next governor have a flair for the dramatic, like the liberal fire-starter Kucinich?

Or should the job go to a sober technocrat, like Cordray, who spent much of his recent career working on bank regulation?

And does it matter if, like Kucinich, the next governor had ever taken money from a group linked to Syrian leader Bashar Assad?

As The Vindicator’s editorial page said this week, Democratic voters “have an interesting choice to make in the May 8 primary for governor: They can either vote with their hearts or their heads.” (It endorsed Cordray.)

The only newspaper to endorse Kucinich was The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the largest paper in the city he served as mayor from 1978 to 1979 and later as a member of the House of Representatives from 1997 to 2013.

The Plain Dealer cited Ohio’s history of Republican dominance in its endorsement of Kucinich, who is backed by allies of Sen. Bernie Sanders, over Cordray, who is supported by Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “Old habits die hard,” the paper said. “But die they must.”

The paper said voters should back Kucinich because he had “passion, vision and an ability to grasp the bully pulpit to inspire Ohioans” and could “challenge Statehouse inertia” after decades of Republican governance.

“Business as usual in Columbus has left too many Ohioans behind,” it said. “And a Kucinich governorship wouldn’t be business-as-usual.”

But the editorial board said it is “as aware as any could be of Kucinich’s flaws.” Those include a $20,000 speaking fee the former congressman took last year from a group sympathetic to Assad. He said recently that he will return the money.

The Akron Beacon Journal appeared to have little patience with both the primary campaign overall (“bizarre and wacky”) and with Kucinich in particular. Last week, it dismissively said that he had argued that Cordray “somehow isn’t progressive enough.”

It endorsed Cordray, who it described as “careful and dullish” and not “a stirring campaigner, to say the least.” But it said he had the sober temperament and skills the state needs in a leader.

“To gain these and other skills takes experience (and the capacity to learn,)” it wrote in its endorsement. “Look no further than the current White House to see what happens when they are missing or in short supply.”