SIDNEY — Ohio Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine visited Sidney on Tuesday afternoon, one week ahead of midterm elections.
DeWine spoke briefly during a rally on Courthouse Square. The rally, organized by Shelby County officials, was in opposition to Ohio Issue 1, which aims to reduce penalties for crimes of obtaining, possessing, and using illegal drugs.
DeWine had originally planned to make a stop at The Spot Restaurant after the rally, but due to time constraints, was unable to do so.
After the rally, DeWine posed for pictures and spoke with students of Sidney High School, as well as other members of the community.
In response to a question about his opposition to Issue 1, DeWine stated he had introduced a 12-point plan of action against the opioid crisis.
“The 12-point plan is very realistic, very holistic, and it’s something that we can get done,” he said.
“One thing we’re going to do is increase the number of drug courts because they work. We’re (also) going to increase the number of anti-drug law enforcement task forces in the state and, in regard to treatment, we want to put an emphasis on what happens after the person comes out of treatment because that is really a crucial time. (We need) some way to get them integrated back into society, but without going back to the same friends and people they were dealing with.”
The 12-point action plan also includes the implementation of drug prevention education within every school throughout the state of Ohio.
“When I’m governor, we will be doing something that is preventative in regard to going down the path to drug addiction,” he said.
DeWine said this drug education program would differ from the existing Drug Abuse Resistance Education, known as DARE, in that it would be comprehensive and included within each year of a student’s schooling.
“No one thinks they’re going to teach a child how to read by doing it one year,” DeWine said. “This is something we will cumulatively continue to do.”
Additionally, the 12-point plan includes the roll-out of a statewide drug prevention media campaign, and the expansion of early intervention programs that target Ohio families and children in foster care, among other things.
Throughout his campaign, DeWine has mentioned his intent to bridge the divide between political parties, which often becomes intensified through heated rhetoric leading up to any election.
“This election will be over in a week,” he said. “The ads will go off, and it’s going to be important for the next governor to pull people together.
“If you look at the issues that we face — the drug problem, education challenge, skills gap — these are all issues that we’re not going to solve unless we pull Democrats, Republicans, and independents together.”
DeWine said his experience as Ohio Attorney General, as well as his time in Congress, has helped qualify him for this task. If he wins the election, he said, he will begin his gubernatorial career by reaching out to legislators of both parties.
“It doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree, but we should be able to find common ground on a lot of the issues,” he said. “I’ve done that throughout my career, (including) when I was in Congress; the bills that I was able to get passed, I always had a Democrat co-sponsor to work with me.
“You know this country is divided; there’s no doubt about it when you talk to people,” he continued. “I look at my job as governor as really bridging those gaps and pulling people together to look at what our common objectives are.”
Another important first step in his prospective governor’s seat, DeWine said, would be to improve the job market within Ohio by ensuring an employable workforce.
“I think everything flows from jobs,” he said. “We’ve got people who don’t have the skills necessary, so we need to get them to have the skills, and get to some of the people who are unemployable because they can’t pass a drug test; if we can deal with these two challenges, we’re going to see our economy continue to move in a much faster way.”
DeWine noted a “skills gap” within the state, which refers to a shortage of people skilled in the STEM (science, technology, education and math) industries. This, in turn, affects the sustainability of businesses.
To improve this gap, DeWine said he aims to put a focus on career centers throughout the state.
“We’re going to take our career centers and bring them up to an even higher level,” he said. “Our goal is to have them the best in the world, preparing young people for 21st century jobs.”
DeWine’s campaign has also focused on plans to increase funding for children’s services, early childhood care and preschool, mental health services in schools, and drug task forces, among other things.
DeWine said these services are attainable without a raise in taxes.
“First of all, what we want to do is continue to grow our economy,” he said. “If we continue to do that, there will be money for those things,” he said. “The money that I’m talking about for these programs is really all an investment in our future.”
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