CLEVELAND - For the first time in eight years, the two leading candidates for Ohio governor will face off in their first debate Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Dayton. Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray meet up as a new Baldwin Wallace University/Community Research Institute poll has DeWine leading Cordray 41.8 to 37 percent with 21.3 percent undecided.
This will be the first Ohio governor's debate since 2010 because Governor John Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed Fitzgerald did not debate four years ago.
The focus will be on kitchen table issues that represent what families are most concerned about as they head to the polls. The BW study asked voters to rank them and healthcare was the highest on the list with 77.5 percent of voters placing it on their list followed by the economy at 70.2 percent, taxes 64.7 percent and gun policy at 63.6 percent.
"Other issues we've heard more about at a national level did not rank nearly as highly," said Dr. Tom Sutton of Baldwin Wallace. "And so I really do think that this healthcare issue continues to persist and should play a big role in the governor's race related to who is going to live up to the claims that Kasich wants them to in terms of keeping the Medicaid expansion and even making it broader."
Gov. Kasich expanded Medicaid in the state, a move that added an estimated 700,000 to the rolls of insured Ohioans. Cordray has been a strong supporter of the expansion, DeWine has not been saying it was not financially sustainable. In July, though, he came out to say he would not reverse the expansion but would work to reform it.
"I think you're seeing that DeWine may have been a little reluctant initially to go for that expansion but given the polling support and I think recognizing the issue particularly in relation to the opioid crisis," Sutton said is why DeWine softened his stance.
It's been estimated that more than 200,000 Ohioans are receiving treatment for opioid addiction through the Medicaid expansion.