In March, Dory MacMillan started working for the Ohio Democratic party as a press assistant and tracker. Throughout her work as a tracker during the primary election, she followed Mike DeWine all over Ohio by attending his events, recording audio and getting a full sense of what DeWine was saying on his campaign trail, and how he said it.
After the primary elections, MacMillan joined the Cordray campaign as a researcher, with a continued focus on his opponent, Mike DeWine.
When September brought the announcement that Cordray and DeWine would participate in a series of three gubernatorial debates, including one tonight, prepping and practicing became a necessity. Cordray needed someone to play his opponent, Mike DeWine?
"Mike DeWine has been using the same talking points for many years," MacMillan tells Scene
. "People always talk about how recognizable his 'brand' is, and that's especially true in his patterns of speech. He's been saying the same things for his whole 42-year career."
Without a doubt, MacMillan's extensive research and observations on DeWine made her the perfect DeWine stand-in for debate prep. In addition to her work on the primary trail, MacMillan went back and meticulously studied DeWine's performances in his last debates during his failed 2006 race for the senate with Sherrod Brown.
MacMillan used this footage and research in order to perfectly execute DeWine's debate style and mannerisms, as well as get into the mindset of DeWine's thought processes by studying his stances on the major issues to develop a better handle on his policy positions.
Charlie Andrews, Cordray for Ohio's press assistant, tells Scene
that the debate team started calling her "Dory DeWine" because of how closely she could mimic his mannerisms and speech patterns.
"Honestly, anyone who has spent as much time with [DeWine] as I have could do the same," MacMillan says.
At 23, MacMillan is less than two years removed from college, but about a week into the preparation, Andrews tells us that "Dory DeWine" was clearly getting under Cordray's skin. During a particularly heated mock debate, she pulled no punches and Cordray referred to her as "the increasingly unpleasant Dory MacMillan."
Now that the debates are underway, MacMillan's skills have been put to the test. "It was clear after the first debate how much Dory nailed down DeWine," Andrews says. "The opening statement was almost verbatim."
"There are some things I know how to predict his response to — on opioids, on education. He's all about referring people to his website for his plans," MacMillan says. "Sometimes, if we cover a topic he's refused to answer on — or if I'm trying to defend his record on something like coverage for pre-existing conditions — it gets harder and I end up pivoting to a different issue."
Fortunately, debate prep isn't always a cutthroat and serious endeavor. During the sometimes 6-hour-long prep sessions, MacMillan and Cordray both took the time to crack jokes and consume plenty of candy. Cordray is a known snack lover, and kept the new caramel M&Ms and Cheez-It Grooves on hand as debate fuel.
MacMillan spends a lot of her time as Dory DeWine, but it's a worthwhile endeavor to help the candidate she believes in.
"At the end of the day, I know why I'm there," she says. "I believe in Rich Cordray and Betty Sutton's mission. I believe in access to affordable health care, quality public education, and protecting a woman's right to make decisions for her own body, and I know that Rich will never stop fighting for those rights."
The third and final gubernatorial debate between Richard Cordray and Mike DeWine takes place tonight at 7 p.m. at Cleveland State University's Glasscock Family Foundation Ballroom.