Attorney General: Montgomery (R) and Dann (D) Lead in Primaries
The Columbus Dispatch primary polls show State Auditor Betty Montgomery (R) with an enormous lead over State Rep. Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) in the primary for her old job as Attorney General, with fewer undecided voters than in any other primary race polled. The Ohio Republican Party recently suspended its own rules to endorse Montgomery in this race, and she has vast advantages in name recognition and fund-raising.
In sharp contrast, the Democratic primary for attorney general has an extremely high proportion of undecided voters. The 14 point lead of ODP-endorsed State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Youngstown) over former Cleveland Law Director Subodh Chandra (D) is big, but it pales in comparison with the 68% of voters who have yet to make up their mind.
I have been intending to post my personal reaction to these candidates on the basis of last Friday's Meet the Bloggers event in Cleveland, and this seems like an appropriate place to do that. I was impressed with the intelligence and passion of each. Both were articulate, knowledgeable, and throroughly prepared in their responses to a number of questions, covering substantive topics as diverse as consumer protection, school funding, public corruption, and capital punishment. These are two excellent candidates, and I wouldn't hesitate to support either in November.
The differences between them have to do mainly with their professional backgrounds and personal style. Dann's current and most important qualification is his service as a legislator, and it helps him that during that service he was one of the earliest and most vocal critics of Republican corruption and mismanagement as reflected in the Noe/Coingate scandal that he helped uncover and publicize. Although Dann has substantial civil and criminal litigation experience in private practice, Chandra has conducted and supervised government litigation on a large scale as an Assistant United States Attorney and Law Director for a major metropolis. Consequently, Chandra emphasizes his direct litigation experience, asserting that he has personally faced teams of high-priced legal talent such as are likely to be marshalled against an Attorney General who takes on special interests and large corporations. Dann counters that he can hire assistants with that kind of litigation experience, and emphasizes his knowledge of policy and ability to work with the legislature. In terms of personal style both display passion for serving the public but Chandra struck me as being distinctly more aggressive and ambitious. I can envision Dann as a capable administrator and an agency head who can function well within state government, but Chandra would be an absolute terror in pursuing justice and reform. Although Dann has proven his mettle in pursuing the Coingate scandal, I suspect that Chandra may be capable of greater creativity and scale in envisioning the measures that an Attorney General can take to advance the public interest. Given Ohio's recent history of corruption and collusion with special interests, I think I prefer Chandra, by a narrow margin.