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Mike DeWine Caps Off Career By Winning Ohio Governor's Race

Lieutenant governor-elect Jon Husted and governor-elect Mike DeWine celebrate at the Ohio Republican Party event, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio.
Tony Dejak
Associated Press
Lieutenant governor-elect Jon Husted and governor-elect Mike DeWine celebrate at the Ohio Republican Party event, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio.

Republican Mike DeWine will cap off a career in Ohio politics that has spanned five decades with four years in the governor's office, beating Democrat Richard Cordray in a relatively close race Tuesday.

DeWine took just over 50 percent of the vote to Cordray's 46 percent, according to unofficial vote totals.



Moments after his victory was declared, DeWine tweeted out his appreciation to his supporters.

The lead went back and forth throughout the early hours of Tuesday night until DeWine settled in to a single-digit lead that lasted until the Associated Press called the race shortly after 11 p.m.

It was shortly before midnight when Cordray sent an email to his supporters thanking them for "standing with me through this campaign."

"Though we came up short, we proved that our collective voice is strong,'' Cordray wrote "And I'm hopeful because of the millions of Ohioans who supported our campaign."

Becoming governor had been a goal of DeWine's for many years, and, at the age of 71, this might have been his last hurrah.

But DeWine managed to weave his way between two Republicans who detest each other: President Donald Trump and the lame-duck governor, John Kasich.

Without cozying up to closely to either one of them, DeWine got the benefit of their help in the final week of the campaign, with Kasich – who may have more support among Democrats and independents now than his fellow Republicans – cutting a TV ad for DeWine and appearing at a rally for the DeWine-Husted ticket.

And Trump, whom DeWine mostly avoided during the campaign, swooped into Cleveland on the day before the election for a rally with DeWine at Cleveland's IX Center.

There, Trump proclaimed that he himself was essentially "on the ticket" in this mid-term election. And he was right.

Most political observers agreed that voters on both sides had Trump on their minds – both those who support him and those who despise him – when they went to the polls to vote for governor and all the other statewide offices.

"I think most people will be thinking of Donald Trump when they vote Tuesday,'' said Hamilton County Republican Party chairman Alex Triantafilou on Monday. "And whichever side is best at getting their people out will win."

It would be hard to find two gubernatorial candidates who know each other as well as DeWine and Cordray. And dislike each other so much.

They are both politicians with political passports stamped with multiple offices. The 59-year-old Cordray spent two years as Ohio Attorney General, two years as state treasurer, five years as Franklin County treasurer and two years as a member of the Ohio House.

That's peanuts compared to DeWine, who has spent nearly 42 years of his 71 years on Earth in a series of elected offices – from Greene County prosecutor, the Ohio Senate, the U.S. House and lieutenant governor to 12 years in the U.S. Senate.

He was elected Ohio attorney general eight years ago, running against – you guessed it – Cordray, who held the office at the time, having won a 2008 special election to replace Democrat Marc Dann who had resigned in a sex scandal.

Then, like in this rematch, it was a tight race all the way.

In the end, DeWine eked out the slimmest of victories in 2010, winning by less than 49,000 votes out of 3.8 million cast. The margin of victory was only 1.3 percent.

He did considerably better this time, with an unofficial vote count lead of about 316,000 votes.

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.