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A Preview Of Ohio's GOP Gubernatorial Primary

Ohio Public Radio

The gubernatorial primary is the first election for statewide office since Ohio supported Donald Trump in 2016. 

Tuesday's results could show a lot about Ohio’s Republican voters and the real impact Trump has on state politics. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow explains.



The Republican gubernatorial ballot has gone through several changes since this race started.

What was once a four-person race is now a two-person battle between Mike DeWine and Mary Taylor.


Taylor was a state lawmaker and the state auditor before becoming Governor John Kasich’s lieutenant governor for the past seven years. She says the 2016 presidential election was a clear indication that voters wanted something different. So her strategy has been to reach out to the so-called “Trump voters.”


Taylor: “They want to know that the candidate they’re choosing is in fact not only going to campaign as a conservative but to govern as a conservative and they also want to know that they’re going to challenge the status quo and my record says that I, very clearly, that I am willing to challenge the status quo and the establishment.”


DeWine has spent decades in public service. He’s been attorney general since 2011 - before that he was a U.S. Senator and lieutenant governor. When asked if he’s worried about being tagged as the establishment politician, he says voters don’t pay attention to labels.


DeWine: “What people tell me is ‘look, we want to know what you’re going to do to make my life better. What you’re going to do to make my kid’s life better. How you’re going to fix the education problem. What’re you going to do about this horrible, horrible opioid problem.”


While DeWine started this campaign focused on the issues, his strategy took a turn while he and Taylor started trading blows with negative ads.


“Career politician Mary Taylor is lying,” says a DeWine ad, while Taylor’s campaign ad argues, “D.C. DeWine, too liberal for too long.”


Polls have shown DeWine with a strong lead the entire race. But both candidates have spent nearly $5 million each on this tough primary fight.


Taylor has made gun-owner rights and the Second Amendment a cornerstone of her campaign. At a pro-gun rally on the Statehouse steps, with a shotgun slung over her shoulder, Taylor distanced herself from DeWine and even her former running mate, John Kasich.

Taylor: “So here is our message to John Kasich, Mike DeWine, and every other establishment politician…come and take it!”


As Taylor notes, DeWine has received poor reviews from the NRA based on his voting record on gun-control measures in the U.S. Senate. While he’s endorsed by the Buckeye Firearms Association, Taylor is backed by Ohioans for Concealed Carry.


DeWine says he’s been an advocate for gun owners, such as working to expand reciprocity. But when he’s pressed on possibly supporting some gun control measures…


DeWine: “We’re open to anything that is in fact reasonable and does actually accomplish something.”


The question every candidate running for governor must answer is how they’ll address Ohio’s widespread opioid.


Although Medicaid expansion has helped treat hundreds of thousands of Ohioans with addiction recovery, Taylor says those programs are economically unstable.


Taylor: “As governor I will propose and I will fight for a ballot initiative put before the state of Ohio for the state to incentivize the private sector to build out the continuum of care for all of those living with addiction today to give them real help and hope and healing.”


DeWine has implemented different programs to fight the opioid epidemic through law enforcement with additional events with local groups.


DeWine: “We’re only going to be successful at saving lives if we really focus at the local level so I put together a team that can go out and help local communities really come up with grassroots efforts.”


DeWine agrees that Medicaid is economically unstable and hopes Congress will make changes that will allow his administration to redesign the program.


Both DeWine and Taylor, in their ads, have tried to position themselves as allies of President Trump. Taylor has attended all three of the president’s trips to Ohio in the past year. While DeWine didn’t go to those events, he did travel to D.C. to take part in a meeting with the Trump Administration regarding opioids.


The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.
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