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Ohio governor's race heats up as ads flood airwaves

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    Republican Mike DeWine has released the first attack ad in the governor's race, focusing on the backlog of rape kits when Democratic opponent Richard Cordray held the Attorney General post.

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    Democratic candidate for governor Richard Cordray

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    State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) took issue with Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine portraying himself as an advocate for sexual assault victims.

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Dewine-Attack-Vid

Republican Mike DeWine has released the first attack ad in the governor's race, focusing on the backlog of rape kits when Democratic opponent Richard Cordray held the Attorney General post.

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On the heels of the gubernatorial race’s first attack ad — from Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine — Democrats fired back at Mr. DeWine’s boast of clearing backlogged rape kits by calling on him to denounce alleged sexual assaults by President Trump ahead of the President’s appearance here Friday.

Released Wednesday, the 30-second ad features testimony from rape survivor Allyssa Allison and seeks to portray Mr. DeWine’s opponent, Democrat Richard Cordray, as endangering Ohioans while he held the same office as Mr. DeWine.

“Thanks to Mike DeWine, they found my rapist,” Ms. Allison says. “Because of Mike DeWine, I’m not afraid anymore. It feels good not to be scared.”

WATCH: The first attack ad of Ohio’s 2018 governor’s race

The ad criticizes Mr. Cordray for the 12,000 untested rape kits that Mr. DeWine later cleared after running for Ohio’s Attorney General seat and beating Mr. Cordray in 2010. His office announced this year the completion of the backlog testing.

“Cordray’s failure left serial rapists free to strike again, then Mike DeWine became attorney general and he tested all 12,000 rape kits. Now hundreds of rapists are behind bars,” the ad’s narrator says.

Mr. Cordray’s campaign points out that thousands of old rape kits from the Cleveland Police Department surfaced in his last five months in office, and during that time Mr. Cordray laid the foundation for future testing.

“After 42 years we all know that Mike DeWine can find a way to play politics with just about any issue, and I’m sad to see him do it again now with this campaign on something as serious and sensitive as rape kits,” Mr. Cordray told reporters Wednesday. “The reality is DeWine let the statewide backlog of rape kits fester in his office for seven years before getting them tested.”

He called the ad “callous” and “beneath the dignity of the office we’re both seeking.”

Meanwhile, the Cordray campaign seized on a report this week of a union grievance for expired bulletproof vests at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, part of the attorney general’s office. A spokesman for the office told the Associated Press the new vests are on order.

As Mr. DeWine readies for the Republican Party’s state dinner — which caps off a whirlwind week of legal woes for the GOP after the President’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted of tax and bank fraud and his former lawyer Michael Cohen implicated the President in hush-money payments — Democrats mounted another offensive.

The party on Thursday called on Mr. DeWine to distance himself from the President, who has been accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women. President Trump has denied their claims.

Two Democratic candidates, state Rep. Teresea Fedor (D., Toledo) who’s running for state Senate, and Rachel Crooks, a candidate for state House in Tiffin, took issue with Mr. DeWine portraying himself as an advocate for sexual assault victims.

“DeWine cannot portray himself as an advocate on Wednesday and then campaign alongside Donald Trump on Friday,” said Ms. Crooks, who made national headlines before she announced her candidacy by sharing her account of assault by the President. She has accused him of forcibly kissing her at Trump Tower more than a decade ago.

In response, the DeWine campaign pointed to his tweets from 2016 criticizing the President for his vulgar comments to Billy Bush of Access Hollywood. 

“Donald Trump’s comments are wrong, repulsive, and unacceptable. No one should ever talk about anyone that way,” Mr. DeWine wrote at the time. “His comments fall short of the standard we should expect of our public officials.”

Mr. Cordray has yet to release an attack ad against Mr. DeWine. The former Consumer Finance Protection Bureau director is playing up his bookworm image by releasing a series of ads touting his five Jeopardy! wins and an online ad where he reads mean tweets.

One ad features Mr. Cordray singing the state’s official rock song, Hang on Sloopy.

WATCH: Richard Cordray Jeopardy! ad 

Contact Liz Skalka at lskalka@theblade.com, 419-724-6199, or on Twitter @lizskalka.

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