Northwest Ohio left out of governor's race debate schedule

Gubernatorial candidates Mike DeWine, left, and Richard Cordray at the Ohio State Fair.
Gubernatorial candidates Mike DeWine, left, and Richard Cordray at the Ohio State Fair.

COLUMBUS — The two major party candidates for governor have agreed to a slate of three debates over a span of about three weeks prior to the November election — and none will take place in northwest Ohio.

Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine, in a joint statement, announced debates in Dayton, Marietta, and Cleveland. The formats of those debates have not been announced.

“Mike DeWine looks forward to discussing his innovative ideas to strengthen Ohio’s workforce, provide a world-class education for our kids, and deliver more opportunity for every Ohioan,” DeWine campaign manager Dave Luketic said.

Cordray campaign manager Michael Halle said, “Rich has always stood up for working people in Ohio, and he is eager to discuss his vision to put money back in the pockets of middle-class families and protect Ohioans’ access to quality, affordable health care.”

In 2010, the two major party candidates, then Gov. Ted Strickland and his successful Republican challenger John Kasich, participated in a debate in Toledo. There were no debates during the uncompetitive 2014 contest between Mr. Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald.

The first debate will be hosted by the University of Dayton on Sept. 19. That will be followed by events at Marietta College on Oct. 1 and at Cleveland State University on Oct. 8. The third debate will take place one day before the deadline for Ohioans to register for the Nov. 6 election and two days before voters may begin casting ballots by mail or in person.

The debates are not slated to include Green Party candidate Constance Gadell-Newton or Libertarian Travis Irvine.

The final debate at Cleveland State was negotiated with the Ohio Debate Commission, a collaboration of civic organizations, media, and universities created to encourage quality statewide debates. It’s patterned after organizations in the states of Utah, Indiana, and Washington.

Jill Zimon, the commission’s project director, said the organization encourages additional debates and was thrilled that the two candidates had agreed to two more beyond the one the commission negotiated.

“We want there to be more debates, not fewer,” she said. “We are not exclusive. We made it clear to the organizations that have been involved since April that we want them to host debates in their own regions. This is in response to the decline in the number of debates and an increase in campaign calculations that not debating is an option.”

Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University, said such debates are good for democracy but usually don’t play a major role in voters’ final decisions.

“They generally confirm where voters are already coming from,” he said. “Those who have a strong view of Mike DeWine or Richard Cordray will probably see that increase more than anything else. The voters most likely to be influenced by the debates are those least likely to watch. They aren’t as plugged into the process.”

Ms. Zimon said the commission is discussing a possible vehicle for the minor party candidates not involved in the debate to get their messages out.

"I'm very disappointed to be excluded from the planned debates, but not at all surprised that two career politicians would collude to keep voters from hearing ideas that challenge the status quo,” Mr. Irvine said.

“What's really upsetting is that the mainstream media outlets sponsoring and covering these debates apparently think it's their job to help Republicans and Democrats keep Ohio voters in the dark about the choices they have," he said.

Ms. Zimon said discussions are under way about a second commission debate focused on another statewide race that she declined to identify.

Contact Jim Provance at or 614-221-0496.