Holding a lead in two recent independent polls and facing a challenge from three GOP opponents, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine won’t attend an upcoming debate, a campaign spokesperson announced March 10.
“We will respectfully decline the invitation to participate in the Ohio Debate Commission’s Primary debate,” Brenton Temple wrote to the commission’s Jill Miller Zimon.
Organized by the commission, primary debates for the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races will take place later this month at Central State University’s Paul Robeson Cultural and Performing Arts Center in Wilberforce—four miles from DeWine’s home in Cedarville.
Senate Democrats are scheduled to take the stage on March 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., while Senate Republicans will gather that evening from 7 o’clock to 8:30 p.m.
Republican gubernatorial candidates will debate on March 29 from 11 a.m. to noon, and their Democratic Party counterparts will appear that night from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Withstanding the Onslaught
Every Senate candidate who was invited to attend has said they will be there.
Former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley and former Dayton mayor Nan Whaley are opponents in the Democratic Party race for governor. Both candidates have said they will attend.
All three challengers are outspoken about DeWine’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, which has included business closures, mask mandates, and vaccine lotteries.
The governor has also drawn rampant criticism for implementing a gas tax as his first act in office in 2019 and his recent comment saying that he will not sign a bill that would temporarily repeal that gas tax increase.
So far, though, DeWine is withstanding the onslaught from opponents.
A poll by The Hill/NBC4i/Emerson College that was conducted Feb. 25-26 showed DeWine at 34 percent support followed by Blystone (20 percent), and Renacci (9 percent). Thirty-six percent are undecided.
The poll also showed that 45 percent of voters approve of DeWine’s job as governor while 37 percent disapprove, and 18 percent are neutral or have no opinion.
DeWine has 47 percent approval among Democrats, 46 percent approval with Republicans, and 42 percent from independents, according to the survey.
On Monday, a Fox News poll conducted by Beacon Research and Shaw & Company Research between March 2-6 placed DeWine in first place on 50 percent, followed by Blystone (21 percent) and Renacci (18 percent).
“Mike DeWine is the most publicly accessible governor in Ohio history,” Temple said.
“Gov. DeWine meets with constituents on a daily basis and regularly takes questions from the media. Ohioans know where he stands on the issues and that he is fighting and winning for them.”
Ohio Debate Commission president Dan Moulthrop expressed his disappointment in DeWine’s decision.
“We convene these debates to help voters and, frankly, to help campaigns and candidates connect with voters across the state,” Moulthrop said. “We would welcome the governor reconsidering and joining us.”
Renacci also hopes that DeWine will change his mind and take the stage at Central State.
“Mike DeWine has spent his term governing like a blue state liberal—shuttering our economy, irreparably harming our kids’ access to education, trashing Donald Trump, and turning Ohio into ground zero for public corruption,” Renacci said. “And now he’s refusing to answer for any of it.
“As a pro-Trump, committed conservative who has a clear plan to lead Ohio out of the mess DeWine has created, I’m not surprised he’s terrified to debate me,” Renacci added.
“But what does shock me is that Gov. DeWine thinks so little of the countless Ohio families whose lives he’s harmed, futures he’s ruined, and businesses he’s destroyed, that he won’t even take the debate stage to attempt to justify it—let alone apologize for it.”
Hood has not responded to the commission’s phone calls and emails, the organization said. To date, Blystone is the only candidate who has committed to attend the GOP gubernatorial debate.
“It’s our responsibility as candidates to be available to discuss the issues,” Blystone said. “I’m willing to go anywhere—whether it’s a church, a dive bar, an American Legion hall, or a political event—to talk to Ohioans, tell them my ideas, and answer their questions. I’ll be there on March 29 even if I’m the only one on that stage.”