- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ohio gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray thought he could lay claim to being the champion of the left, having run President Obama’s Wall Street cop agency and led a prominent battle to constrain President Trump.

But his rivals have found room to maneuver to his left, particularly on issues like marijuana and gun rights. And voters say he’s proving less than electric on the campaign trail.

Mr. Cordray says being governor is more about the virtue of the good stewardship that he has displayed over the course of his career of public service than it is about being a flashy showman who promises the moon.

“People can propose anything they want to propose, but if they have no real plan for accomplishing it, it won’t get us anywhere,” Mr. Cordray said in a recent debate. “I like to get things done.”

He’s amassed a long record as state treasurer and attorney general, but gained national prominence after Mr. Obama named him to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The brainchild of now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the independent agency has the power to investigate and punish Wall Street, and Mr. Cordray flexed those powers freely.

When he quit last year he also tried to lock in his own replacement, hoping to delay Mr. Trump’s chance to control the agency. The move made him a hero to many liberals, but wasn’t particularly effective, with the president winning a legal battle and installing his own man.

It remains to be seen whether those credentials will cut it for party activists who find the 58-year-old’s monotone delivery dull and question whether he will be a true liberal warrior.

“The view of Richard Cordray is kind of like the same view that progressive had of Hillary Clinton,” Steve Holecko, co-founder and political director of the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, told The Washington Times. “You have a centrist, very much corporate controlled — and let’s say Cordray won the primary, yeah, we will vote for him, but not knock on doors and do everything we can for him.”

Polls have shown he is locked in a tight battle with former Rep. Dennis Kucinich in the May 8 Democratic primary race, which also features state Sen. Joseph Schiavoni and state Supreme Court Judge William O’Neill, who dubbed Mr. CordrayPrince Richard,” dubbing him as the establishment’s preferred candidate.

Mr. Cordray has countered he would rather be known as “Richard the Lionhearted.”


One issue where their attacks seem particularly effective is on guns, where Mr. Cordray used to boast of his “A” rating by the National Rifle Association.

In the wake of the school massacre in February in Parkland, Florida, that’s not playing well.

Mr. Kucinich also reminds voters of the role Mr. Cordray played as attorney general in lifting an assault weapons ban adopted by the city of Cleveland, and supporting Second Amendment rights in the Supreme Court case that established a personal right to own firearms.

Mr. Kucinich even tried to use the issue to drive a wedge between Mr. Cordray and liberal hero Ms. Warren, who recently hit the campaign trail with him.

Sen. Warren is opposed to assault weapons in Massachusetts, but approves of assault weapons in Ohio?” Mr. Kucinich said. “By injecting herself into the governor’s race on behalf of a candidate who is rated ‘A’ by the NRA, she is raising serious questions about her judgment and the seriousness of her commitment to an issue that she speaks so passionately about — elsewhere!”

Mr. Cordray still refuses to support a ban on some semiautomatic rifles — a so-called “assault weapons ban” — but has hardened his stance otherwise, calling for universal background checks, raising the age for all firearms purchases to 21 and banning high capacity ammunition magazines and bumpstocks that replicate the rate of fire of automatic weapons.

He said he’s trying to find areas where progress can be made.

“Some parts of my plan the NRA opposes, I know that, but they are the right thing to do for Ohio and I will fight for those things to get them done,” Mr. Cordray said.

Proponents of stricter gun laws are not sure what to make of his evolution.

“He has moved over a little bit but far from he needs to be,” said Toby Hoover, founder of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. “And he is still saying he makes no apologies for where he as been. So it is a little defensive.”

Allies rally behind Cordray

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, though, defended Mr. Cordray on guns.

“If we are going to litmus test every single issue we are not going to win,” Ms. Whaley said. “Cordray is a progressive.”

She said he might not be as flashy as Mr. Kucinich — “who will promise anybody anything to get their vote” — and may not be as progressive on guns as some would like, but said that his record of accomplishment is unmatched in the race, and that his style “is very Ohio.”

Ms. Warren also is all in for Mr. Cordray, calling him “is a good man who shares our values.”

“Let’s be honest, Wall Street banks hate everything Rich stands for and they will stop at nothing to prevent him from becoming your next governor, but they’ve underestimated one unshakable truth, they’ve got money, they’ve got power, but there is a lot more of us than there are of them,” Ms. Warren said at a rally last week.

Connie Pillich, who endorsed Mr. Cordray after pulling the plug on her gubernatorial campaign earlier this year, told The Times that the ties to Democratic superstars like Mr. Obama and Ms. Warren speaks values about him.

“But we have to remember that Rich Cordray has been fighting for people in one way or another for 30 years, and while he has been out of the state during the week for his day job he has always kept his foot in Ohio and the things he was doing was absolutely benefit the people in Ohio and across the country,” she said.

Among the “kitchen table issues” he says he’s focusing on, Mr. Cordray wants to raise the minimum wage, make community college free and enact universal preschool.

“I’ve built a record of real results,” Mr. Cordray said last week. “We’ve helped small businesses create jobs and helped thousands of people save their homes from foreclosure. We took on Wall Street and brought back $2 billion for Ohio retirees. We defended worker rights.”

Mr. Cordray got a recent boost after receiving the endorsement of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, but the editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer shocked some people this week by endorsing Mr. Kucinich.

Despite the former congressman’s flaws, they said he has the “passion, vision and an ability to grasp the bully pulpit to inspire Ohioans about the need for change.”

As for his top rival, the newspaper said the “well-informed Cordray wants to bring Ohioans together, as partners, to address the state’s problems, but if he’s passionate about leading Ohio or has a vision for its future, he hid it well during the endorsement interview.”

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