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A bad ad on good work

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CTY-DEWINE21-37

Ohio Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine has launched a series of controversial attack ads against his opponent, Richard Cordray.

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Thanks to the leadership of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, more than 13,000 sexual assault evidence kits that were sitting neglected on police department shelves have been analyzed and cataloged for DNA evidence.

In a political TV ad that is running several times a day, Mr. DeWine, now the Republican nominee for governor, takes a justifiable victory lap about bringing rapists to justice. A woman who was raped tells the camera, “Because of Mike DeWine I’m not afraid anymore.”

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But then the ad crosses the line into unjustified attack mode.

The ad says this about Mr. DeWine’s opponent in the governor’s race, and his predecessor as Ohio AG, Richard Cordray: “Cordray’s failure left serial rapists free to strike again.”

This is a stretch. The backlog of rape kits was just coming to be known during Mr. Cordray’s tenure, which lasted only two years, 2009 and 2010.

The untested rape kits were in the possession of Ohio’s municipal police departments, about half of them in Cleveland alone. The extent of the piled-up DNA evidence in city evidence lockers began to be discovered during 2009, which was Mr. Cordray’s first year as attorney general. He ran in November, 2010 (against Mr. DeWine) and was defeated, so he left office in January, 2011.

According to Mr. Cordray, during his short tenure he began expanding and modernizing the testing of DNA evidence. He says he introduced robotic testing equipment into the state crime labs for the first time ever, filled staff vacancies, and improved the state crime labs.

The DeWine campaign has counterpunched, saying that Mr. Cordray was responding to his attacks in that 2010 campaign on Mr. Cordray for the sorry state of the state’s crime labs. He provides documents showing that the robots were ordered by Mr. Cordray’s predecessor, Marc Dann.

Mr. DeWine certainly recognized the tremendous criminal justice benefits of clearing up rape kit analysis. Each kit contained the DNA of an alleged rapist. Mr. DeWine hired additional scientists and told the municipal departments that he would analyze their rape kits for free.

Over the course of seven years, more than 13,000 rape kits went through analysis, contributing to more than 300 rape convictions.

Mr. DeWine’s TV ad tells us a valuable story about how government action can directly lead to justice being done to a traumatized victim. Mr. DeWine deserves credit for good work.

That doesn’t give him the right to demonize his opponent.

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