Friday, Sep 21, 2018
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Democratic gubernatioral candidate Richard Cordray has the potential to be a good governor for the state of Ohio.

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If Richard Cordray wins the Democratic nomination for governor and goes on to win the general election in November, Ohio will have a leader with a serious mind and broad knowledge of the workings of government.

Whether it will have a governor with the dynamic vision Ohio needs to break out of the mediocre muddle where it has been stuck for so long is another question.

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Spend even a few minutes with Mr. Cordray and his earnestness and intellect will be abundantly clear. Is he a change agent? Not so far.

Mr. Cordray, 58, is generally thought to be the frontrunner in a four-way race for the Democratic nomination that will be decided on May 8. He has as his running mate Betty Sutton, also a serious person with experience at different levels of government.

In his meeting this week with The Blade’s editorial board, Mr. Cordray showed an encouraging, and unique, sensitivity to the struggles of Ohio’s small towns and mid-size cities — almost all devastated by U.S. trade and economic policy over the past 30 years. The opioid crisis — as bad in Ohio as it is anywhere — is exacerabted in Ohio’s small towns, because they have almost no public resources.

Does Mr. Cordray have an answer?

No, but at least he’s not telling small town Ohioans to move to Texas. “A lot of people in Ohio love living in those smaller communities,” he said.

To several of of the board’s questions Mr. Cordray frankly did not have an answer: Should Toledo join a regional water agreement? Should Ohio abandon the secretive JobsOhio economic development agency? Should Ohio ban rifle sales to people under 21? He was unsure on all.

That was both refreshing and concerning.

On a few topics, Mr. Cordray showed he is prepared to take the fight to the Republican nominee, whether that turns out to be Attorney General Mike DeWine or Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. He said the current administration of Republican John Kasich has inexcusably “dragged its feet” on designating western Lake Erie as impaired and responding to the opioid epidemic. Both points are obviously true. But “Better than Kasich” is not much of a motto.

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Mr. Cordray has some Toledo connections. He is remembered in Toledo as the state attorney general who helped Toledo retain 75 police officers threatened with layoffs during the 2008 recession. And former Lucas County Treasurer, and now Toledo Mayor, Wade Kapszukiewicz adopted some of Mr. Cordray’s innovations as Franklin County treasurer.

Mr. Cordray lives where he grew up, in the Columbus suburb of Grove City. He has degrees from Michigan State University, Oxford, and the University of Chicago Law School. He has perhaps the best resume of the four people running for the nomination. He has been a county treasurer, the state treasurer, state soliciter general, and Ohio attorney general, and, finally, the nation’s top consumer financial watchdog. He did well in every post.

Richard Cordray is a sober pro and would be, almost certainly, a safe pair of hands. One doubts there would be scandal in a Cordray administration. He’s not the crony politics sort of guy. He has the smarts and the training to be governor. And those are no small matters. He still needs to show he has some vision.

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