Gov. Mike DeWine and rival Jim Renacci discuss jobs, education and COVID politics during editorial board meeting

COLUMBUS, Ohio—For months, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Renacci has pushed for a row with incumbent Governor Mike DeWine on a primary debate stage.

On Monday, Renacci, a former congressman from Wadsworth, came as close to his goal as he’ll get this primary campaign, trading arguments and political points with DeWine during an online meeting with the editorial board. from The Plain Dealer/cleveland.com. DeWine previously declined an invitation to a debate with his GOP rivals ahead of the May 3 primary.

During the hour-plus meeting, Renacci faulted DeWine for his record on the state’s economy, the governor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the FirstEnergy scandal, education programs and d ‘other stuff. DeWine defended his record as governor and took a hit or two against Renacci.

The Plain Dealer/cleveland.com invited the other two Republican gubernatorial candidates, Columbus-area farmer Joe Blystone and former state Rep. Ron Hood to attend the meeting, but neither is appeared.

More on what DeWine and Renacci talked about:

The Ohio Economy

DeWine touted Intel’s decision to build a massive $20 billion semiconductor factory near Columbus. The governor said Monday that Intel’s presence in Ohio would not only bring thousands of jobs to central Ohio, but also cause a “ripple effect” across the state by attracting suppliers for the massive semiconductor complex.

The governor also said Ohio’s bond rating was at its highest since 1970 and cited reports such as Forbes magazine ranking Ohio second in the nation for quality of living.

But Renacci criticized the more than $2 billion in state incentives offered to Intel to come to Ohio.

“One of the worst ways to do business development in the state when you have to pay to bring businesses in,” Renacci said. “That’s one of the reasons we can’t compete because we continue to use 20th century corporate buying policies to lure them instead of using economic drivers to lure them.”

Renacci added that while DeWine signed a balanced budget for the state, a large amount of federal coronavirus relief money “helped us fill the bucket of the deficit that would have been there without” the aid. He also cited a number of studies and rankings of his own indicating that Ohio has fallen, including a list from the Republican National Committee showing that Ohio is in the 30s among states in terms of economic recovery after the pandemic.

“The post (-coronavirus) recovery has been horrible,” Renacci said.

DeWine fired back at Renacci, “It’s interesting that Mr. Renacci didn’t name a single thing he’s going to do — he’s just criticizing what we did.” We have a long, long list of what we’ve done to help people become productive, to help people live the American Dream.

Coronavirus Policy

Renacci also said he was concerned the governor ‘didn’t listen to people’ when he closed businesses, imposed a curfew and unilaterally set other major rules in the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis. in 2020.

He also criticized DeWine for relying on Dr. Amy Acton, the state’s chief health officer at the start of the pandemic, saying “we could never find the statistics or the studies to prove what she was saying” (Renacci did not specify which statistics or studies he was referring to).

“She scared people,” Renacci said, referring to Acton. “I’ve talked to older people, who said, ‘I’m scared to death.’ These are the kinds of policies that, in my opinion, are not good.

DeWine defended his response to the coronavirus, saying he made decisions based on the best facts he could get at the time.

“We’ve taken, I think, a middle-of-the-road stance when it comes to balancing lives and livelihoods,” the governor said. “And I’m proud of what we’ve done.”

Specifically, DeWine noted that in 2021 he had successfully pushed nearly every principal in the state to sign a pledge to resume in-person classes by March 1, suggesting he would only begin not vaccinate teachers in districts that disagreed. That hastened the reopening of schools in Cleveland, which had previously planned to resume in-person learning in early April.

DeWine said his administration has brought together business leaders from various sectors to establish reopening protocols — a plan some other states have emulated.

Randazzo

DeWine defended his decision in 2019 to appoint Sam Randazzo to chair the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Randazzo resigned in November 2020 after the FBI raided his Columbus home after FirstEnergy Corp. went public that he fired CEO Chuck Jones and two other top executives over a questionable $4 million payment to a company controlled by Randazzo. In 2021, FirstEnergy admitted to bribing Randazzo, although the longtime utility lawyer denies any wrongdoing.

The governor said he chose Randazzo for the presidency because he had expertise in public services. DeWine said “it’s no secret” Randazzo has worked for FirstEnergy in the past, but he said it’s also no secret that he also works for power buyers.

DeWine noted that attorney JB Hadden, a longtime attorney and friend who worked for AEP Ohio, another electric utility, tried to warn him and administrative staff about Randazzo’s suspicious ties to FirstEnergy. But DeWine said Hadden was only offering information already known to the public – adding that every time he goes on a date with PUCO, he hears arguments from critics about why he shouldn’t choose the person he prefers. .

“Obviously if I knew then what I know now, we definitely wouldn’t have cast Sam Randazzo,” DeWine said. “But we didn’t know these things.”

Renacci noted that FirstEnergy was the third-largest donor to DeWine’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

“That’s not to say it’s illegal, but this governor has used pay-at-play capabilities to really get around for the past 45 years,” Renacci said. “That’s one of the things I said I’m going to end up as governor.”

Death sentence

Ohio had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty while DeWine was governor because the state had persistent problems obtaining the lethal injection drugs needed to carry out executions.

DeWine noted that public opinion has shifted away from support for the death penalty, but he said his job as governor was to uphold the law. He noted that he previously urged state lawmakers to choose a different method of execution in Ohio, something lawmakers have so far refused to take action on.

Renacci agreed that as governor he would follow Ohio’s death penalty law. But he said if a bill to eliminate the state’s death penalty reached his desk as governor, he would sign it.

“As a faithful Catholic, I believe that life begins at conception and ends at natural death,” Renacci said.

Education

Renacci said on “day one” as governor, he would ask state lawmakers to eliminate the teaching of critical race theory and social-emotional learning in schools, as well as block the comprehensive sex education between kindergarten and third grade. Critical Race Theory is not currently part of the Ohio school curriculum.

“That’s a position you haven’t heard the governor talk about,” Renacci said. “That’s one of the reasons Republicans aren’t comfortable with him.”

Renacci also said he supports the expansion of school vouchers and would support Ohio House Bill 61, which would ban transgender girls and women from playing women’s and women’s sports in high school and college.

DeWine said he had “already stated” that he was against critical race theory. “When it comes to sex education, I don’t know anyone who thinks first graders, sophomores (and) third graders should get sex education in school,” the governor said, adding that he was also against ‘men competing with women’. ”

The governor said his administration had “significantly expanded” school voucher options. “We believe in school choice. You know, we know it works.

Redistricting

When DeWine was asked why he hadn’t played a bigger role in finding a solution to the months-long fight over redistricting, the governor compared his role to the tactics of former President Ronald Reagan to work with lawmakers behind the scenes to get deals done.

“That’s what a governor does – instead of fighting, and often losing, veto waivers – sometimes…you try to work through these issues and find common ground where things will work better,” he said. said DeWine.

The governor added that “no one is particularly happy” with how Ohio’s new redistricting process has worked in practice.

DeWine added that, personally, “the most alarming thing” has been that outside mappers are “putting a premium on fewer competitive districts” when drawing legislative district boundaries. The mapmakers based their plans on several Ohio Supreme Court rulings rejecting maps passed by DeWine and other Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

“It’s not what anyone ever wanted,” the governor said, adding “I think we need to rethink this (redistricting) process going forward.”

Renacci said he “appreciated” what DeWine said. “But he should have said that all along,” Renacci said, saying the governor had “failed” as a leader.

Renacci also said the decision to have a legislative primary later than the regular May 3 primary because of the redistricting impasse was “a backroom deal” that will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

“It would be very easy to say, ‘Look, the only thing we should do because we’ve failed – whatever whose fault it is – is we shouldn’t put the burden of money on the taxpayer,’ Renacci said. DeWine, Renacci added, “didn’t say that. He should have said that.

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