Lee Weingart, the Republican candidate for Cuyahoga County Executive, has called for a series of 12 debates with the Democratic candidate in the race, Chris Ronayne, in the leadup to the November general election.
Traditionally there is one marquee debate between the candidates held at the City Club of Cleveland. Weingart wants to participate in that debate, but also spar with Ronayne in each of the county's 11 council districts, in order to bring the race's key issues to as many voters as possible across the county this summer.
“The most frequent question I get on the campaign trail is, ‘What does the county do?’" Weingart said in a press release. "Given the county spends more than $1.6 billion per year, we need to do a better job not only explaining what the county does but what each of us would do as the next county executive. There is no better way to do that than a series of debates made convenient for county residents to attend.”
Weingart has been highly critical of Ronayne in recent weeks. His campaign pushed the story of the enduring racial disparities
in traffic stops by University Circle Incorporated police las week. He accused Ronayne, who was in charge of UCI at the time, of failing to successfully address the matter after ProPublica uncovered the alarming data in 2020. Though Ronayne mandated implicit bias training for the UCI officers, purchased body cameras and launched a citizen review board, the percentage of Black motorists stopped by UCI police increased from 88% to 94% in the months after ProPublica's findings.
In the Tuesday news release, Weingart said he looked forward to debating Ronayne at any time and in any venue. When Scene reached out to ask if 12 debates might be overkill, Weingart responded that for him it was an accessibility issue. He said that while people living in the county's outer suburbs might not drive downtown to the City Club, they'd be much more inclined to walk or take a short drive to watch a debate with their neighbors in their own communities. He said he envisioned that the debate formats and locations would be coordinated by the campaigns and individual nonprofit organizations in the various districts.
And he remained confident that he would shine in a debate setting opposite Ronayne. Weingart told cleveland.com that "everything [he had] heard about Chris Ronayne is he is a show horse, not a work horse," and he told Scene a version of the same. He said that he had concrete ideas and bold policy proposals to improve the quality of life for Cuyahoga County residents, particularly those living in the urban core and inner ring suburbs and he was eager to pit that vision against Ronayne's.
"Whatever his vision might be," he said.
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