Political corruption in Ohio, reaction to abortion legislation, and partisan lawsuits among the issues in the Attorney General's race
Republican incumbent Dave Yost and Democratic candidate Jeff Crossman say the way the state defends Ohio's abortion laws and fights corruption are among the issues that hang in the balance in the race for Ohio Attorney General.
The attorney general defends state laws, oversees 900 law enforcement units in Ohio – along with the state’s crime lab and the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy – offers legal advice to state agencies, is called in for special prosecutions and sues on behalf of consumers, with the help of 1,500 employees in 30 divisions.
It’s a highly public job, and that may be why when Yost went on FOX News in July to discuss the story of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who went to Indiana for an abortion — after Yost had helped put the state’s six-week abortion ban in place — his comments got a lot of attention.
In a transcript of that FOX News interview provided by Yost, a former county prosecutor and journalist, he said at the time that he had heard “not a whisper anywhere” about this case, and that “there is no case request for analysis that looks anything like this.”
When a Guatemalan national was charged in the case a few days later, Yost said he rejoiced in the arrest. But he’s refused calls from Democrats to apologize.
“Nothing in here was untrue. Nothing in here — we didn't even know the identity, I still don't, of that poor victim. So, you're asking me to apologize for saying what was true when I said it. Respectfully, that's not very fair,” said Yost.
Jeff Crossman, a Democratic state representative from Parma, said, “I did not call on Dave Yost to resign. I thought he should apologize. And that's, you know, within his own moral judgment, whether he should. And that's up to the voters this fall.”
Crossman has been running as a pro-choice candidate, and doesn’t say how he would defend a law on abortion passed by the Republican-dominated legislature that he personally opposes.
But he has said he will drop the state’s appeal of a Hamilton County judge’s ruling putting the six-week ban on hold indefinitely.
Like other Democrats, Crossman is also running a campaign focused on corruption in state government, using what he sees as Yost’s inaction on the nuclear bailout law House Bill 6 — now at the center of a federal bribery investigation — as an example.
“He's not issued any subpoenas, as far as I can tell. He's not done any actual investigation. And I know he knows how to do that work. He did it, as you know, against county commissioners and state charges. And they have jurisdiction and they have the resources,” said Crossman.
Yost said Crossman doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and that he filed civil challenges to stop state subsidies to FirstEnergy based on the federal investigation and opposed FirstEnergy’s decoupling fee, which the utility has now ended.
“About $2 billion that would have come out of Ohio ratepayers’ pockets over the next ten years or so isn't coming out. Why? Not because of my opponent, not because of the actions of the General Assembly or anybody else, but because Dave Yost went to court. Dave Yost stood up. Dave Yost won,” Yost said.
Crossman also has harsh words for the 23 lawsuits Yost has filed or joined in against President Joe Biden’s administration and those filed after the 2020 election.
“Participating and wasting state tax dollars on lawsuits like trying to overturn the 2020 election in Pennsylvania has no bearing on what happens in Ohio. It's a waste of tax dollars. Dave Yost is nothing more than a political hack, and nothing says hack to me than filing lawsuits just because you want to have a political agenda. That's what those lawsuits have been about,” Crossman said.
In that Pennsylvania case, Yost and other Republican attorneys general said state lawmakers and not the courts should decide if late-arriving ballots can be counted.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency order in that case, but the issue will come up in an upcoming case Ohio has joined on the power of state legislatures in drawing congressional maps. Yost said he’s been part of less than half of the 49 lawsuits filed by attorneys general against the Biden administration.
“Nineteen of them we specifically declined to join because I felt that they were either not well-founded or overtly political. But the bottom line is, I will always fight for the rule of law and have departed for my colleagues in several instances,” Yost said.
Yost had opposed Donald Trump before he got the Republican nomination for president in 2016. He is now endorsed by Trump, but says Biden did win in 2020.
Many Ohio attorneys general have gone on to run for governor, including Democrat Tony Celebrezze and Republican Jim Petro, who lost, and Republican Mike DeWine, who won by defeating former Attorney General Richard Cordray in 2018.