By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
As Mike DeWine worked the tables at Campus Pollyeyes, he had one question. “What’s the best thing to eat here?”
He got one response from his fellow Republicans waiting to greet the gubernatorial candidate. “The breadsticks.”
DeWine, Ohio’s attorney general, is shifting into high gear for the governor’s race to be decided next fall. Tuesday morning he started with breakfast in Mayfield Heights, followed by pie in Amherst, then showed up for pizza in Bowling Green.
Early campaigning can probably be forgiven, since there are already three other Republicans in the governor’s race, including Secretary of State Jon Husted, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, and Rep. Jim Renacci.
Even before DeWine’s arrival at Pollyeyes, some of those present had already picked him as their top choice.
“I like the fact that he has a plan on the opioid epidemic, and he’s ready to go,” David Jenkins said as he dug into a calzone. Jenkins, who is treasurer of the BGSU College Republicans, is part of the voting population that needs to get excited about the next election, said George Nicholson, whose son runs Campus Pollyeyes.
“I think it’s wonderful he’s coming here,” Nicholson said about DeWine. “It’s a good thing for us and a good thing for the College Republicans.”
David Kuebeck, co-chair of DeWine’s campaign in Wood County, is already sold on the attorney general.
“He’s the most experienced candidate by far,” Kuebeck said, listing off DeWine’s past roles as U.S. senator, U.S. representative, lieutenant governor, state representative and now state attorney general. “Nobody’s got a resume like that.”
Unlike the other GOP candidates, DeWine has 90 percent name recognition. As for the age difference between DeWine and his younger competitors, Kuebeck shrugged that off. “I don’t buy into that argument too much.”
And unlike his competition, DeWine has taken on the opioid crisis – and has put money behind the fight, including a grant recently awarded to Wood County.
“He is tackling the most difficult public issue of our time,” Kuebeck said.
DeWine is also credited with helping to keep the BCII crime lab in Bowling Green. When the lab outgrew its building in Bowling Green, several other locations in the state were considered. But a new expanded lab was built on the BGSU campus.
DeWine also has the largest war chest, and has raised more money than the other GOP candidates for governor. “That’s a good thing, because somebody’s got to pay for all this pizza and breadsticks,” Kuebeck said, smiling.
The candidate’s wife, Fran DeWine, talked about knowing her husband since first grade. She told of his first race for an elected seat decades ago, when the two of them knocked on 18,000 doors in Greene County. Fran DeWine decided after that campaign that the next time she went door-to-door, she would pass out more than candidate brochures.
She is still doing that, and on Tuesday, she handed out booklets of family favorite recipes, complete with illustrations by the DeWines’ children and grandchildren. There are recipes for German apple pancakes, Amish barn soup, Aunt Mickey’s green bean casserole, and “Mike’s Favorite” sausage and gravy biscuits.
After shaking all the hands in Pollyeyes, DeWine talked about his signature program. Ohio, he said, is losing 15 people a day to opiate overdoses. Foster care programs are bursting at the seams as addicted parents can no longer care for their children. Businesses are having difficulty finding job applicants who can pass drug tests. And jails have become detox centers.
DeWine recently announced his 12-point plan for dealing with the opiate crisis. The plan focuses on prevention and education – starting in kindergarten. Thirteen years of education would “fundamentally impact the number of kids who start down the track of drugs.”
“When I’m governor, we’re going to do it in every school in the state, every year,” he said.
The plan also focuses on the statistic that 80 percent of opiate addictions start with the use of pain medications. DeWine, who recently filed suit against some drug makers, said those companies are complicit in the crisis.
“They have misled people for so many years. And they are doing nothing about it,” he said of drug companies. “They’ve made billions and billions of dollars on the backs of Americans who have become addicted.”
DeWine also shared his optimism for Ohio, with its good work ethic, and reasonable cost of living compared to the east and west coasts. “The spotlight is coming back on us.”