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Cordray, DeWine Take Different Paths To Attract Women Voters

Ohio governor candidates Democratic Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine speak to reporters following their third debate at Cleveland State University.
Angelo Merendino
Ohio governor candidates Democratic Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine speak to reporters following a debate in Cleveland

Since President Trump took office, thousands of Ohio women have taken to the White House and the Statehouse, advocating for abortion rights, equal pay and lambasting what they see as misogyny in government policies.

The slogan “Remember in November” became one of their rallying cries. But will they?

It was a cold January day in 2017 when hundreds of women of all ages marched to the Ohio Statehouse, carrying signs, demanding change. They weren’t alone. Women throughout the state did the same in their communities. And they did it again in January of this year.

Since then, many have been motivated by the #MeToo movement and the contentious Supreme Court battle over new Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the face of sexual assault allegations

Women's enthusiasm may be high for November, but there are still no women leading either major party's ticket for governor.

Republican Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor lost in a landslide to Attorney General Mike DeWine in that party’s primary. On the Democratic side, all three women dropped out before the primary. Eventually, Betty Sutton joined the Cordray campaign as his running mate.

“In a Cordray administration, there will be strong women in positions of important leadership in building and earning that record and visibility so they will be our political leaders of the future," Cordray says.

Sutton says that’s not rhetoric. She says there are good reasons why women should vote for the Cordray-Sutton ticket.

“Rich and I believe strongly that women should play an equal role in every aspect of society and that is what our administration will reflect. That means insuring that women get equal pay for equal work. It means making sure women are able to make decisions about their own health and their own lives," Sutton says.

Cordray favors abortion rights. And together, Cordray and Sutton plan to create the Ohio Commission on Women and Girls, a panel they say will make sure women have a seat at the table when it comes to state laws and policies.

“Rich and I are going to end that war on women’s rights at home and in the workplace and we believe women deserve champions in Columbus who will fight for reforms that will work for them," Sutton says.

In one of Mike DeWine's ads, a Cleveland area rape victim says "women are safer because of Mike DeWine."

She refers to DeWine as "my savior" while talking how his office processed a backlog of rape kits sitting in county level police agencies throughout the state. DeWine offered to have the Bureau of Criminal Investigation test those kits.

It’s a talking point he makes over and over again in stump speeches and in debates with Cordray.

“We ended up testing 12,000 that were out there when you should have tested them. We tested them because it was the right thing to do because women needed that to have done. We were able to give them an answer," DeWine says.

DeWine’s wife, Fran, is touring the state, talking to women as part of what’s being billed the “Getting to the Heart of it All” tour. As the tour continues through Ohio’s 88 counties, she's meeting up with wives of the other Republicans running for the state’s top offices. She talks about women’s issues differently than Sutton.

“What we talk about is how we make our families safer and what’s good for Ohio families because, you know, I think that’s what women want to hear about. You know, women are predominately who watch the children and keep the homes together so they want to talk about what’s good for families," Fran DeWine says.

Fran DeWine says that’s not to say her husband believes women should stay home and out of the workplace.

“He’s always had women run his offices. When he was in the U.S. Senate, it was women who were his chief of staff and his top people. In the attorney general’s office, it’s a woman who is the chief of staff and so Mike has always been very fair with women," Fran DeWine says.

However they choose to appeal to women, winning their support in November is critical. U.S. Census data show about 52 percent of registered voters in Ohio are women.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.