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Why Aren't Ohio Republicans Holding Any Governor Debates?

Ohio Republican Governor candidate Mike DeWine speaks while running mate Jon Husted looks on.
John Minchillo
Associated Press

The Ohio Democratic Party will soon announce its fifth debate with its four major candidates for governor. But it’s starting to look like there won’t be one between the Republican candidates for that office.

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor has said on Twitter that Attorney General Mike DeWine is scared to debate her because of what she calls his liberal record on the Second Amendment, immigration and conservative judge appointments.

“DC DeWine has made a career out of flip-flopping based on where the prevailing political winds are blowing,” Taylor said on Twitter. “He’ll undoubtedly do so again. That’s why Ohio’s purported ‘top cop’ is scared to debate. He doesn’t want to pit his liberal leanings against my conservative positions.”

DeWine, who is leading in polling and fundraising, won’t directly say he won’t debate, but says he and Taylor have appeared at dinners, forums and other party events several times.

"Look, I’m not afraid to be on the same stage. I like Mary. A good discussion is fine, and we’re going to be doing that in the days ahead. But we’ve already done it, as I said, seven or eight times,” DeWine said on "The State of Ohio."

DeWine’s decision not to debate also drew criticism from Democratic gubernatorial candidates like Richard Cordray, who has so far taken part in one primary debate.

Several newspaper editorial boards have also called on DeWine to accept a debate, including the Toledo Blade and Columbus Dispatch. “Refusal to debate is a sign of arrogance and disrespect,” wrote the Dispatch editorial board earlier in March. “Ohioans deserve the opposite.”

When asked by email if there will be any debates in the governor’s race or between Rep. Jim Renacci and Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons, who are running for U.S. Senate, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party responded simply, “I’ll be sure to let you know.”