CLEVELAND, Ohio — Mike DeWine won’t attend an influential conservative group’s September debate among 2018 Republican candidates for governor, his campaign told event organizers late Tuesday.
In a letter to Americans for Prosperity’s Ohio chapter, which is trying to organize the debate, DeWine Campaign Manager Dave Luketic said the Sept. 5 debate is too early in the election calendar. He cited the possibility of flux in the candidate field, and voters’ possibly divided attention over November’s municipal elections.
“We believe voters should have undivided focus on this year’s candidates and issues. Our campaign is more than willing to enter into negotiations with organizations to set a time/place closer to the Republican primary and where there is more resolution in the field of candidates for governor,” Luketic wrote. “We believe voters are better served by that approach and look forward to discussing debates at a later time.
The refusal from DeWine, the Republican field’s best-known candidate, puts the event in jeopardy.
AFP Ohio, part of the Charles and David Koch’s conservative political network, had secured commitments from the other three Republicans running for governor in 2018. They’d also lined up a venue in downtown Columbus, a pair of moderators and for the event to be broadcast live. They’d hoped to begin giving out tickets Tuesday.
But Secretary of State Jon Husted has said he’d only participate if all the other major Republican gubernatorial candidates — DeWine, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci — would be there.
Here’s the full letter from the DeWine campaign: