Richard Cordray (D)
Mike Crites (R)
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline)-Democrat Richard Cordray, the frontrunner in Ohio's attorney general's race, said Tuesday that if elected he will work to restore confidence in the office beset by controversy.
Cordray, the current Ohio state treasurer, is running to complete the term of former Democratic Attorney General Marc Dann, who resigned in mid-May amid a sexual harassment scandal and after admitting to having an affair with a staffer.
"Whoever goes into that office -- given the nature of the situation -- has to continue to boost morale, double-down the organization and has to try to rebuild the public's trust in the office," Cordray told Legal Newsline. "Public trust is something that is lost quickly and rebuilt slowly."
Cordray said just as he was able to restore public confidence in how taxpayers' money was managed following financial scandals that rocked state government before he was elected treasurer, he would similarly restore public trust in the attorney general's office.
"In the attorney general's office ... I would go in there to continue the work done to clean the place up," said Cordray, who joined with Democratic leaders in calling for Dann's resignation.
Also vying for the two years remaining on Dann's first term is former U.S. Attorney Mike Crites, a Republican; and independent Robert Owens.
Cordray has an eight-point lead in the SurveyUSA poll released last week and his campaign has $ 2.47 million in the bank, compared to Crites' $80,282, recent campaign finance filings show.
As for his policy objectives, Cordray said unlike his opponent he would pursue consumer protection initiatives.
"I am also going to be aggressive about consumer protection," he said. "I don't think that bringing lawsuits is the end-all-be-all of the attorney general's office, but I do think there are people who need to be pursued."
He said with the unfolding credit crisis on Wall Street, the attorney general has a "unique role" to play by pursuing those who have damaged Ohioans through improper actions in the financial markets.
The attorney general, he said, should be prepared to try to make whole Ohio investors who sustained losses on Wall Street as the result of illegal activities.
As for the controversial practice hiring outside counsel to pursue certain cases for the attorney general's office, Cordray said he is open to reviewing the policy.
Critics, including Crites, say the practice, which is common in state AG's offices, creates a pay-to-play system where attorneys general can reward campaign contributors with potentially lucrative contingency contracts.
"That is always something that needs to be reviewed periodically," Cordray said of Ohio's outside counsel policy. "The objective is certainly is to get highest quality service for the state at the lowest possible cost."
He noted that the process should be transparent and that attorneys should compete for outside counsel contracts.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.