By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Richard Cordray has spent the last seven years as America’s consumer watchdog.
The past year, he performed that job under the constant threat of being fired as head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by President Donald Trump.
“The animus and hostility coming out of Washington, D.C.,” is palpable, Cordray said to the Wood County Democratic Committee in Bowling Green Thursday evening. “All the things we try to teach our children not to do, we are seeing the child in the White House do.”
Cordray spoke to a packed house of local Democrats about his goal to take the Ohio governor’s seat this fall.
“I have the background and track record to get results,” he told the crowd.
Cordray has been working as the champion of U.S. citizens, protecting consumers in the financial marketplace. But that was also a job he had to fight to get. Recruited by Elizabeth Warren and appointed by President Barack Obama, Cordray was blocked by Senate Republicans for two years, before being confirmed.
The consumer agency was the product of the Dodd-Frank law, intended to protect Americans from unfair practices by banks, lenders and other financial institutions. After Cordray left the post in November to run for Ohio governor, Trump appointed his budget director Mick Mulvaney to head the agency. Openly hostile to the office, Mulvaney requested a budget of zero dollars for the office this year.
After speaking to his audience, Cordray said the attempts to dismantle the consumer watchdog agency are disappointing.
“They are reversing direction on a lot of things I care about,” he said.
However, he believes the bureau will outlast Republican opposition.
“I do believe, 100 years from now, the agency will endure,” he said. “I think there’s too much need.”
A federal appeals court this week upheld the constitutionality of the bureau’s structure, preserving the agency’s independence.
The past year, Cordray said, has been “quite a saga.”
Cordray has other governmental experience to his name, including serving as Ohio’s attorney general and state treasurer in the past. Though unrelated to public service, he also is a five-time champion of the TV game show Jeopardy.
He has selected as his running mate Betty Sutton, a former U.S. Representative, state representative, and member of Akron City Council. The two of them have a long track record of working on “kitchen table issues,” Cordray said.
Those issues that Ohioans care about are affordable health care, education, jobs that can support families, secure paths to retirement, and prosperity spread throughout the state.
“When Democrats run on economic issues, Democrats win,” he told his supporters. “I want to make Ohio better for all of us – not just for some of us – but for all of us.”
Ohio needs a different direction, Cordray said. That includes a commitment to work together with local government.
“The state legislature has been at war with local government in Ohio for 20 years now, maybe more,” he said.
The state has “stripped” local governments of funding, repealed estate taxes, and has repeatedly given county, municipal and township governments “the short end of the stick,” he said.
“I don’t see how we can solve big problems in the state if we’re not working with local government.”
Cordray predicted that a new Republican governor would likely rollback the state’s Medicaid expansion. He also warned that the algal bloom crisis in Lake Erie would likely continue to go unaddressed.
“Nothing is being solved at the state level. They don’t seem to have the stomach for it,” he said about the ongoing water issue.
When asked by an audience member about Ohio being the “sad poster child of the national opioid epidemic,” Cordray referenced the 12-point plan devised by his Republican gubernatorial opponent, Mike DeWine.
“Although I don’t have confidence in him to execute on it,” Cordray said.
When asked about the failure of the state legislature to change the method of school funding, as ordered by the Ohio Supreme Court, Cordray said that while the state has improved its funding for school buildings, it needs to do better.
The forced closure of ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) is an example of a failed education model, surrounded by arrogance and a lack of accountability, he said. “ECOT is the political scandal of 2018,” for Ohio.
Cordray said he is not worried about being contested by other Democrats for the governor’s seat, since a primary can help “shake out the kinks” in a campaign.
In addition to winning the governor’s seat, Cordray also wants to give Ohioans a reason to vote for a Democrat in the White House.
“I was embarrassed to have Donald Trump win the state of Ohio,” he said. “We have to take the debate everywhere.”