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DeWine declines to participate in first major debate among candidates for Ohio governor

Gubernatorial Debate
David Petkiewicz
Ohio gubernatorial candidates Richard Cordray and Mike DeWine met for their final of three debates on Monday night, October 8, 2018 at Cleveland State University.

So far, the sitting governor is so far the only candidate to decline to appear at a debate set for March 29.

Gov. Mike DeWine has declined an invitation to debate his opponents in the Republican primary race for governor.

DeWine's campaign spokesman Brenton Temple wrote to the Ohio Debate Commission's Jill Miller Zimon: "We will respectfully decline the invitation to participate in the Ohio Debate Commission’s Primary debate." No reason or other information was provided.

DeWine’s decision to pass on the debate is being blasted by his Republican primary opponents. Former Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci says it show DeWine won't take questions about the way he has handled his term in office so far.

“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 justify it," Renacci says.

Another DeWine opponent, Central Ohio farmer Joe Blystone, says he thinks DeWine is out of touch with ordinary Ohioans.

“He’s not the guy, what I would call the representative that goes out and actually talks to the people in this state. He views himself as a king, running our lives, and he just doesn’t want any communication back and forth," Blystone says.

The campaign for DeWine issued a statement saying, in part, that he is "the most publicly accessible Governor in Ohio history." The statement says DeWine meets with constituents on a daily basis and regularly takes questions from the media.

Statement from Gov. Mike DeWine's reelection campaign
Gov. Mike DeWine's reelection campaign
Gov. Mike DeWine's reelection campaign
Statement from Gov. Mike DeWine's reelection campaign

Former state lawmaker Ron Hood, another Republican running for governor in this primary, has not responded to the debate's request for his attendance.

The Ohio Debate Commission was established in 2018 as a collaboration of media outlets around the state, to produce debates for statewide distribution. DeWine did participate in the Ohio Debate Commission's debate for governor in October 2018.

DeWine is the only candidate in either the race for governor or US Senate who has declined to participate in the pre-primary debates set for later this month at Central State University in Wilberforce.

The hour-long gubernatorial debate will be held on Tuesday, March 29 at 11am, moderated by Rick Jackson, senior host and producer for Ideastream Public Media.

The Commission has also announced the moderators for the other three debates:

  • On Monday, March 28, starting at 11:30 am, Curtis Jackson, news anchor at Spectrum News, will serve as moderator for an hour-long debate with the U.S. Senate Democratic primary candidates. Morgan Harper, Traci “TJ” Johnson, and Tim Ryan are expected to participate.  
  • On Monday, March 28 at 7 pm, Ohio Public Radio and TV Statehouse News Bureau Chief Karen Kasler will moderate the 90-minute U.S. Senate Republican primary debate. All seven candidates who made the Ohio ballot are expected to participate: Matt Dolan, Mike Gibbons, Josh Mandel, Neil Patel, Mark Pukita, Jane Timken and JD Vance, though the commission notes their participation is "[p]ending an upcoming meeting with the candidates’ representatives."
  • Tuesday, March 29 at 7 pm, WVXU Cincinnati Edition host Lucy May will serve as moderator for an hour-long debate with the Democratic candidates for governor. Both John Cranley and Nan Whaley have agreed to participate.  
Contact Jo Ingles at
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