CLEVELAND (WJW) – We are less than seven weeks away from the midterm elections, and so far none of Ohio’s candidates for U.S. Senate or governor have agreed to a debate.
The candidates say they are willing to face their opponents, but it appears no one can agree on the terms of the match-ups.
“We’re already committed to several joint appearances where I will be head to head with Mayor Whaley. These will be editorial boards, they will be up on the internet, I’m sure,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
As he runs for re-election, DeWine says Ohioans already know his position on issues facing the state. His Democratic opponent, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, says she has challenged DeWine to face her in a debate, but less than two months from Election Day, DeWine has not accepted the invitation.
“How many of these are you going to do?” said DeWine. “I think it’s semantics on whether you call it a debate stage or not.”
We did not hear back directly from the Whaley campaign, but a spokesman for the state Democratic party said in an earlier statemen, “If DeWine can’t even muster the political courage to tell Ohioans why they should re-elect him, he doesn’t deserve the job and should be held publicly accountable for his cowardice.”
“Governor DeWine has been around a long time. He clearly understands that he has less to gain than she does. He has more to lose than she does,” said Jonathan Entin, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University.
“They can’t seem to agree on when or where or under whose sponsorship,” said Entin.
The Vance campaign said no to any debate sponsored by the Ohio Debate Commission, saying “It would be absurd to participate in a debate overseen by a liberal Tim Ryan donor who has repeatedly and publicly smeared Republicans – Ohioans deserve fair, impartial debates. JD has accepted two nonpartisan debates and hopes our opponent will as well.”
Ryan’s campaign says, “Tim Ryan remains as eager as ever to debate JD Vance, but in order for that to happen, JD needs to stop hiding from debate organizers and trying to back out of forums both candidates have already committed to.”
The commission tells FOX 8 they produced fair and impartial debates in the primaries and were prepared to do the same for the general election.
Meanwhile, FOX 8’s parent company Nexstar Media Group is still in talks with both campaigns in hopes of finalizing a debate originating from FOX 8 in the coming weeks.
According to a poll by FOX 8, Emerson College and The Hill, 80% of Ohio voters say it is very or somewhat important for candidates for governor and senate to debate before the election.
The same poll shows Governor DeWine leading Nan Whaley roughly 50% to 33%.
The Senate race is tighter, with J.D. Vance ahead of Tim Ryan about 44% to 40%.
Professor Entin says it is unusual not to have debates, but doubts they would make much difference anyway.
“It’s mostly symbolic. These days, we don’t really have that many persuadable voters who will make up their minds on the basis of something that a candidate says in a debate,” Entin said.
Governor DeWine says in October his campaign will reconsider whether to participate in a debate. He has also ruled out one sponsored by the Ohio Debate Commission, but says he might consider one coordinated by our parent company through our sister station in Columbus.