CEDARVILLE — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine just confirmed what has been rumored for several months.
In front of nearly 2,000 at his annual ice cream social, the Cedarville resident announced he is a candidate for governor of Ohio. He joins a crowded Republican field consisting of Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Secretary of State John Husted, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth.
“So many people have been asking me, ‘When are you going to announce that you are running for governor?’ Well, today’s the day,” the 70-year-old said, drawing raucous applause.
Word of DeWine’s potential candidacy leaked in May 2016, but he had yet to officially announce it until Sunday.
“Fran and I decided to do the announcement speech and make it official at our house,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Gazette. “It’s the opportunity to talk directly to many of our friends. I felt that announcing in the county in which Fran and I grew up, the county in which we raised our kids just was the place we really wanted to do it.”
DeWine — who has served as Greene County prosecutor, lieutenant governor, Ohio senator, and in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate — said the growing opiate problem, education and jobs were his inspiration for seeking to become the 64th person to serve as governor.
“I run for governor because there are challenges,” he told the Gazette. “There are problems that we have to face. Sometimes as attorney general, I felt like I was almost picking up the pieces after the crash. I think a lot of our problems we really need to get ahead of.”
DeWine told the crowd that opiates kill at least 10 Ohioans each day.
“When I am governor we will get in front of this epidemic,” he said. “We will teach our kids in every single school in the State of Ohio in kindergarten through 12th grade the skills they need to make good decisions. We will teach them consistently and repeatedly and in an age-appropriate way about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.”
He then called on every community to have a grassroots effort to “fight back against this opiate epidemic” and said it must include law enforcement, local officials, schools, business leaders, community members, and the faith-based community.
DeWine said another challenge is that employers around the state tell him they can’t find workers.
“They can’t find people who will pass a drug test. They can’t find people who have the requisite skills,” he said. “One of our challenges is how we deal with that problem.”
He said Ohio has to do a better job in business working with vocational schools, career centers, and two-year colleges.
“We have to have more internships, more mentoring, more apprentice programs,” DeWine said. ‘These are all things I think will help.”
A related problem, DeWine said, is the number of kids in Ohio who are growing up in dysfunctional families and in poverty and don’t have the opportunities they should be given.
DeWine said there are several schools in Ohio that are making a difference with at-risk kids and he wants that to increase.
“We know what works today,” DeWine said. “The bad news is we’re only reaching a fraction of at-risk youth with these dynamic schools. As governor I want to use the office itself to go around the state to … schools that are working and doing a good job. Work with legislators on how to replicate. One of main themes is focusing on the kids. We should want for these kids what we want for our own children. Our goal should be that every kid has opportunities.”
DeWine also plans on making some changes in Columbus. He said the governor should be a manager and when he takes office he will bring in business people to look at every aspect of state government and make recommendations to make it more efficient.
He added that he will also focus attention on “issues that truly matter.”
DeWine will begin his campaign Monday, June 26 and spend about two and a half days campaigning in Cleveland, Youngstown, Lima, Cincinnati, Portsmouth, Columbus and Toledo. But he said he will not be campaigning full time.
“I’m going to be doing my job (as attorney general),” he said.
DeWine, who was born in Springfield and grew up in Yellow Springs, was elected Greene County prosecutor in 1976. In 1980 he was elected to the Ohio Senate. Two years later he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, a seat he held until 1991 when he was sworn in as lieutenant governor under George Voinovich.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994 and served until 2006, when he was defeated by Democrat Sherrod Brown. DeWine was elected attorney general in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014.