Republican Mike DeWine won Ohio’s governor race Tuesday in a big night for the GOP, which swept the down ticket executive offices – attorney general, auditor, secretary of state and treasurer – for the third consecutive statewide election cycle.
Around midnight, DeWine and his running mate, Jon Husted, and their families took the stage at the Ohio Republican Party event in Columbus to declare victory in what had been a hard-fought campaign.
DeWine saluted his Democratic opponent Richard Cordray, who he said “fought a tough, tough race – about as tough as I want.”
He added “Tonight one journey ends and the other begins. As we begin this journey tonight, we must work, not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Ohioans. Ohioans united around our shared mission to ensure that every single person in this state, every child, not matter where they’re born, no matter who their parents are, no matter what their circumstances are, has the opportunity to live up to their God given potential. That is our mission.”
Cordray called DeWine to concede a short time after the Associated Press called the race for DeWine at about 11 p.m.
“We fell short tonight but while we were outspent, we proved that no amount of money can silence our collective voice,” Cordray said.
With almost 99 percent of Ohio’s 8,904 precincts counted, DeWine had 51 percent of the vote compared to 46 percent for Cordray.
Meanwhile, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, won his race over Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, 53 percent to 47 percent. Renacci conceded the race around 8:30 p.m.
In the down ticket contests, the attorney general’s race went to Republican Dave Yost, the auditor’s race to Republican Keith Faber, the secretary of state’s race to Republican Frank LaRose and the treasurer’s race to Republican Robert Sprague.
Democrats did win both Ohio Supreme Court seats up for election, cutting into total GOP control of the court.
Clearly, though, the night belonged to the GOP.
DeWine will be the first governor from the Miami Valley since Democrat James M. Cox led the state nearly a century ago. He’ll also continue the party’s domination of the state’s highest office. Republicans have held the seat for 24 of the last 28 years.
Although DeWine appeared at a rally with President Donald Trump in Cleveland on Monday, University of Dayton professor Christopher Devine said he did not go out of his way to embrace Trump during his campaign for governor.
“ He didn't repudiate him, either,” Devine said, “but it was obvious to anyone paying attention that Mike DeWine is not a big fan of President Trump and probably won't govern as a Trump Republican in the same way that, say, Mary Taylor might have done so. And apparently Ohioans are OK with that. That's an important lesson for other Republicans in Ohio."
Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken said she saw high energy among voters on both sides of the aisle and she noted that the Ohio GOP made 300,000 phone calls and sent 500,000 text messages to encourage its voters to get to the polls.
The governor’s race was bitterly fought and expensive, ranking third nationally according to one estimate.
DeWine attempted to leverage his high name identification, loaned his campaign $4 million from his personal wealth, launched blistering attack ads and rallied GOP base voters with President Donald Trump in hopes of closing the deal.
Cordray had hoped to stage a political comeback, having lost to DeWine in the 2010 race for attorney general. He is a former state lawmaker, county treasurer, state treasurer and attorney general. On the national stage, he served as director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a job that drew praise from consumer advocates and heavy criticism from Republicans, banks and payday lenders.
Over the past several months, the two men have attacked one another over the online charter school scandal, support for health care coverage and their track record as attorney general. They split over social issues such as access to abortion, gun control, legalizing marijuana and LGBTQ rights. And they argued over who is better suited to lead Ohio.
As the weeks wore on, the attacks got sharper.
“You’ve been a failure at every job you’ve ever had,” DeWine told Cordray in their first televised debate Sept. 19 at the University of Dayton. DeWine later ran ads that blamed Cordray for the national economic meltdown that devastated Ohio eight years ago.
Cordray fired off an email to supporters last week, saying “The truth is, Mike DeWine was willing to throw sick people off their health care while waging a partisan political war against the ACA—the only law to ever protect people with pre-existing conditions—in an effort to show his allegiance to the big health care and insurance companies that always bankroll his campaigns.”
In his concession speech Cordray admitted that he has his differences with DeWine but called him a “dedicated public servant.”
DeWine has had five different elected posts over the past 42 years.
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