Obama man Cordray, populist Kucinich in Ohio governor fight

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A former consumer watchdog under President Barack Obama pushed into the final days of an unexpectedly close Democratic gubernatorial primary in Ohio against an ex-congressman with a catchy populist slogan.

In final ads headed into Tuesday's primary, Democrat Richard Cordray used his wife, Peggy, to lovingly push back against the perception that he's a bore. The spots emphasized the 59-year-old Cordray's intellect and work for everyday Americans as head of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Ohio attorney general.

Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, 71, has challenged Cordray for supporting gun rights and campaigned to his left on such issues as civil rights and environmental protection. Questioned over his ties to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Cleveland's former "boy mayor" was punctuating the final push of his "Power To We The People" campaign with joint appearances featuring fiery Bernie Sanders devotee Nina Turner and actor Danny Glover.

Turner and Glover implored Ohio voters at an appearance Monday with Kucinich to support what they characterized as transformational change over the pragmatism of "establishment Democrats."

"Imagine what happens with what you do here tomorrow and how that ripples across this country," Glover said. "How that changes the calculus across this country and creates the narrative, the change that is necessary, that is imperative to our future."

Taquia Jones, 40, a personal protection consultant from Columbus, was finding the choice between Kucinich and Cordray tough. She said she would have to pray on it Monday night after attending campaign events for both candidates.

"It's like having a baby — like, am I doing this right?" she said.

Karen Boddie, 58, a Columbus-based Ph.D. student, said she would vote for Kucinich, "but I really respect Cordray, I would be fine if he wins."

As he geared up for an election-eve rally in Columbus, Cordray said he and running mate Betty Sutton, a former congresswoman, were fighting for every vote.

"What's important for us to do is to present a vision and to give people confidence that we can get results for them and improve their lives," he said.

The Democratic race also includes two lesser-known candidates: state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, 38, and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill, 71. With voter turnout potentially low, Schiavoni's popularity in his native Mahoning Valley and O'Neill's support from a pro-marijuana legalization group threw further wrenches into Cordray's chances for an easy victory.

Once the crowded primary concludes, Republicans hope to hold onto the seat held by GOP Gov. John Kasich, a two-term governor and 2016 presidential contender who's term-limited.

But the strikingly nasty Republican primary between Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor has buoyed Democrats' hopes of facing a damaged candidate for the open seat this fall.

In a $10 million-plus ad war between the campaigns, Taylor, 52, has labeled the former U.S. senator and lieutenant governor "DC DeWine" and painted him as a liberal the likes of Obama and Hillary Clinton. DeWine, 71, has called Taylor a "phony conservative" who's unqualified and often was absent from her job.

With support from conservative and Tea Party groups, Taylor pledges to support Republican President Donald Trump's agenda and to roll back Medicaid expansion. The Kasich administration she currently serves supports the extended insurance benefits, which were made an option for states under the federal health care law. DeWine, the party's endorsed candidate, has walked a more careful line on Trump in anticipation of needing to win a statewide election in politically divided Ohio in November.

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Julie Carr Smyth can be reached on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/jcarrsmyth .

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