Ohio governor candidates will be in Middletown for last debate before May 8 primary

The next Ohio governor will need to address several issues over the next four years — including the economy, education and the opioid crisis — and four of the candidates for the office will be in Middletown next month answering questions on those issues.

The Journal-News and WLWT-TV are sponsoring this fifth Ohio Democratic Party-sanctioned debate on April 10 hosted by Miami University Regionals at its Middletown campus. It is also the first day of early voting for the May primary.

“The forum represents a chance to share with voters their respective visions of Ohio’s future and where they would like to lead us as a state,” said Miami University Regionals political science professor John Forren. “It is also a chance for these candidates to talk with voters directly and in some detail about how they plan to tackle some of the state’s biggest problems and how the candidates’ own backgrounds and life experiences have prepared them to lead the state’s government in Columbus over the next four years.”

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Rob Rohr, Cox Media Group Ohio Market Vice President, said it’s “critical” for the public to know where these candidates stand on the important issues facing the state.

“One of the missions of the Journal-News is to encourage and facilitate dialogue about the issues facing our communities,” he said. “As we seek to find a new governor in November, it is critical that we understand how all the candidates will address the critical challenges and opportunities facing Ohio. That’s why we are proud to partner with Miami University and WLWT to bring these potential candidates to this public forum to hear how they would lead the state if given the opportunity.”

WLWT President and General Manager Branden Frantz said the state is “entering a crucial time for Ohio voters.”

“WLWT, as part of its Commitment 2018 coverage, is committed to providing airtime to candidates so viewers can make an informed decision on the candidates and the issues,” he said.

The 60-minute debate will be held at Miami Middletown’s Finkelman Auditorium. It will be free to the public, and space is limited to just more than 400 seats. The free tickets will be available online later this month via Miami University’s ticket box office.

Candidates that were invited were vetted by the Ohio Democratic Party and include former congressman Dennis Kucinich, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, Ohio Sen. Joe Schiavoni and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill.

WLWT anchor Sheree Paolello will moderate, with Forren, Journal-News political reporter Michael D. Pitman and WLWT anchor Courtis Fuller serving as panelists. Members of the audience will be able to ask questions during the town hall-style debate.

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Forren said the forum is also “a terrific opportunity” for Ohio voters in the Greater Cincinnati region and the Miami Valley to see the Democratic candidates “up close and in person.”

“This election for governor comes at a critical time in Ohio — as the winner of the election will play a leading role over the next four years in determining how strong Ohio’s economy will be, how strong our schools and communities are, and more generally, how good our quality of life will be here in the Buckeye State,” Forren said.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said the praise his party has received for being “a political party with policy ideas” and “the party that promises action” after the fourth debate in Toledo earlier this month contrasts with the Ohio Republican Party “which has anointed (Ohio Attorney General) Mike DeWine as their endorsed candidate and is allowing him to duck debates.”

Pepper said after seven years of the Kasich administration, job growth h as stalled, the state has not been able to slow the increasing number of drug overdose deaths and student debt is higher in Ohio than anywhere else in the county.

“Ohio Republicans aren’t offering solutions, and Mike DeWine isn’t even willing to discuss our problems in an open debate,” Pepper said. “Ohio voters deserve better.”

WLWT will air the hour-long debate live starting at 7 p.m., and the Journal-News will stream the debate live at www.journal-news.com.

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