Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray criticized his Republican opponent, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, for what he called "indecision and inaction" in addressing the opioid crisis in the state, WOSU radio reported.
Cordray's comments were co-signed by two county sheriffs, although the law enforcement opinion on the matter is not unanimous, with Union County Sheriff Jamie Patton calling the accusations "absurd."
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Ohio is one of the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths. The state's 2016 rate of 32.9 overdose deaths per 100,o00 people is more than three times the rate in 2010.
What did Cordray say?
Cordray, speaking alongside Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin and Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, accused DeWine of only addressing opioids once he decided to run for governor.
"What Mike DeWine is doing right now as attorney general is simply too little too late, and he has had no plan to address this crisis until he started running for governor this year after seven years of indecision and inaction as attorney general," Cordray said.
Baldwin echoed that sentiment, saying he has not seen improvement during his year and a half in office, and that his county continues to get worse.
Cordray was Ohio's attorney general from 2009 through 2011, and was beaten by DeWine when he ran for re-election. He was appointed as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by then-President Barack Obama in 2012, and his gubernatorial run is endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
DeWine's campaign responds
Joshua Eck, a spokesman for the DeWine campaign, dismissed Cordray's comments as "completely out-of-line and false" in an email to TheBlaze on Monday.
"There is no person in Ohio who has done more to fight the opioid crisis than Mike DeWine," Eck wrote. "Mr. Cordray is only manufacturing this story to cover up the fact that he didn't foresee this crisis when he was Attorney General, and did nothing to prevent it. It's clear Mr. Cordray has been in D.C. so long that he doesn't even know the work that has been done in Ohio to curb addictions and get people back on their feet."
Eck cited multiple actions taken by DeWine over the years, including creating a dedicated heroin unit in the attorney general's office, appointing a former prosecutor to lead anti-opiate efforts, and ramping up efforts to convict and close drug cases and to take the licenses of doctors and pharmacists who were illegally prescribing.
Patton also vouched for DeWine's commitment to battling opioid abuse, saying "[DeWine] has been on top of this issue from day one, and when he is governor, he will be able to do so much more."