Plain Dealer: David Pepper talks about his vision for Ohio Attorney General’s Office, tells tales of a young Vladimir Putin: Q&A

By Henry J. Gomez, Northeast Ohio Media Group

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on October 16, 2014 at 2:30 PM, updated October 16, 2014 at 3:50 PM

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Few politicians work harder than David Pepper.

The former Cincinnati city councilman and Hamilton County commissioner never really left the campaign trail after his failed bid for state auditor four years ago.

He’s been to chicken dinner after chicken dinner. Cranked out policy statement after policy statement. Launched Twitter barrage after Twitter barrage.

Despite all of this shoe leather and social media warfare, Pepper might also be the biggest underdog on the Democratic ticket this fall. He faces Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose name has been on statewide ballots for decades.

One thing is certain: DeWine and his Republican allies treat Pepper as if he’s a much greater threat than their internal poll numbers would have you believe. DeWine recently hit the airwaves with an ad that asserts Pepper is unqualified to be attorney general. Pepper, 43, has succeeded in getting under DeWine’s skin.

The Northeast Ohio Media Group recently interviewed DeWine and Pepper, concluding a series of Q&A features with the candidates for down-ballot state offices.

You can find our conversation with DeWine here and our conversation with Pepper below. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

NEOMG: After running for auditor four years ago and getting your name out there, what made the attorney general’s race the one you went for this time?

DP: Truthfully, the last time there already was an attorney general for the Democrats [then-incumbent Richard Cordray, who lost to DeWine]. The governor [fellow Democrat Ted Strickland] had asked me to consider running for auditor.

If you look at my record – my time in office fighting for public safety and improved police-community relations, my time as a lawyer since 1999 – despite what Mr. DeWine’s ads say, I have a good, long record as a lawyer. If you add it all up, my background, my experience and my passion are very much aligned with what a good 21st century attorney general should be doing and should be focused on. My experience and my interests are much more aligned with the office.

NEOMG: You crossed paths with Vladimir Putin back during your days working for a Washington think tank’s outpost in St. Petersburg, Russia. What were your impressions of the future Russian president?

DP: I worked in St. Petersburg between ’93 and ’96. This was a very different era in us Russia relations. Vladimir Putin, he was the vice mayor for St Petersburg.

We met with him all the time. I thought to myself: How’d this man become vice mayor anyway? He never said a word. The mayor was gregarious and gave toasts all the time. Putin was deadly serious, not at all friendly.

He would be the last I would have picked to be a forward-looking leader.

Writer’s note: In a 2006 interview, Pepper spoke of Putin more fondly.

NEOMG: What courtroom experience do you have?

DP: I’ve been in court a number of times. I’ve been a lawyer since 1999. My first job was clerking for a federal court – the 6th circuit court, a place where DeWine struggled to win any major case. I have been in court in person and on briefs and motions many times. I’m not a trial attorney. I don’t hold myself out as one.

But I’ve been involved in major cases, commercial cases, voting rights cases.

It’s ironic that a guy who wasn’t even able to practice law between 1996 and 2007 would challenge my legal credentials. I would argue my legal experience is far more relevant and current than Mike DeWine, who was a prosecutor back in the ’70s.

Writer’s note: This is a somewhat misleading line from Pepper. As NEOMG has reported, DeWine had an inactive law license from September 1997 to April 2007, but not because he did anything wrong. He was serving in the U.S. Senate for much of that period. Lawyers in Ohio are permitted to register their licenses as inactive.

NEOMG: What’s the top item on your agenda if you win in November?

DP: The near-term crisis item is clearly the heroin crisis. I think the state has failed to respond in a serious way to what is an enormous crisis. Mike DeWine’s approach is a lot of talk but very little action. We’ve laid out a plan – very robust, very broad.

The heroin crisis is, sadly, a classic case study of what happens when politicians respond to public health crises without a comprehensive approach. There was a crackdown on prescription drugs, but there wasn’t a corresponding focus on the treatment needs of all those who were addicted.

DeWine had a lot of press conferences when he cracked down on pill mills. But he didn’t even declare a crisis on heroin until [November] 2013.

NEOMG: You have been critical of how DeWine handles the testing of rape evidence kits, something many see as a positive for him. What would you do differently?

DP: What I would do is be a lot less patient with the current pace.

I give Mike DeWine credit. But especially since its obvious there are hits being made, when you know there are thousands of these kits all over the state and there are thousands now at the Attorney General’s Office just sitting there, to me it commands a much more impatient, rapid approach than we’re seeing today.

I think there are clear ways to speed this up. When DeWine first got there, he sent evidence to local labs to be tested. I don’t see why you wouldn’t do that now when you have capable local labs. Now he says it’s too expensive.

NEOMG: But wouldn’t your way cost more money?

DP: I don’t think so at all. There’s a finite number of kits out there. You’re going to have to pay a certain cost no matter what. It’s just a matter of when. So by doing it quicker you front load the costs but that’s good because you’re getting through it.

NEOMG: Say you win, and there’s another challenge to Ohio’s gay marriage ban. You’re the attorney general, responsible for defending Ohio law. What do you do?

DP: The irony on this whole issue is that in principle, Mike DeWine and I agree on something. He just articulated it in the case about the right to lie in political ads. The role of the attorney general is very clearly to defend Ohio law and the Ohio Constitution, even when the attorney general might not personally agree with that law.

Your duty to simply follow the Ohio law blindly is trumped by your responsibility to speak up for federal constitutional rights. That’s what DeWine wrote in the separate brief that he filed in that right-to-lie case. I think that clearly applies in the case of these marriage equality bans. What DeWine is doing is even more extreme than these other cases. These other states are arguing that people in their own state shouldn’t get married. DeWine is arguing that valid marriages from other states shouldn’t be recognized here.

NEOMG: Your campaign has been called out for running a misleading “pay to play” ad that equates Mike DeWine’s repayment of a personal campaign loan with some major scandal. Why do you believe this is a fair attack for your campaign to promote?

DP: I didn’t say he broke the law. He’s obviously not in jail. But I don’t think that’s much of a defense. This is the largest [campaign] loan, we believe, in the history of Ohio. If you look back, you do not see loans nearly this size.

I think what’s driving all that pay to play is that over the last 3 ½ years on a regular basis, the money he’s pulling in from [donors who receive state contracts] he is transferring back to himself in six figure increments over and over. I can tell you as someone in politics, walking away from three years worth of fundraising and moving half the money back to myself would really change the motivation of the fundraising.

NEOMG: Fast-forward to 2018. What is David Pepper doing?

DP: Well, I know one thing. I will be almost celebrating my son’s fourth birthday. That’s a guarantee. Politically, I’ll be working as hard as I can to get re-elected.

This is one of the few jobs where every single day you can make a difference for citizens. I cannot think of anything more exciting than not just winning this November, but also running for re-election to keep doing this work. So that obviously would be my goal.

AP: Politicians fight over approach to heroin crisis

Andrew Welsh-Huggins 7:04 a.m. EDT October 9, 2014

COLUMBUS – Heroin has become the drug of choice for many addicts in Ohio — and the politicians squabbling over who has done the most to tackle the epidemic of overdose deaths blamed on it.

In the race for attorney general, Democratic challenger David Pepper has accused GOP incumbent Mike DeWine of a slow response to the heroin problem since taking office in 2011.

“For three years, Mike DeWine failed to notice Ohio’s exploding heroin crisis, and he has since offered a lot of talk with few solutions,” Pepper said earlier this year in a typical attack.

A record 680 Ohioans died of heroin-related overdoses in 2012, according to the most recent state Health Department records.

Pepper has proposed a mix of education, treatment and prevention. He said he would also sue drugmakers he accused of marketing powerful drugs such as painkillers without fully disclosing the risks.

Pepper and DeWine both favor tougher sentences for the worst dealers and homicide charges against dealers whose drugs result in overdose deaths.

The latest disagreement came last week, when DeWine announced the formation of a committee to study making death certificates standard across the state to improve the accuracy of drug overdose data. Pepper said he proposed a similar effort almost a year ago with a plan to create real-time crime tracking. DeWine’s office said the proposals are “apples and oranges.”

In Maryland, Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan has criticized Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, saying Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration hasn’t done enough to address that state’s heroin problem. Both candidates for Wisconsin attorney general, without assigning blame, have said more needs to be done about the problem.

In Ohio governor’s race, Democrat Ed FitzGerald has criticized Republican incumbent John Kasich for cutting funds to local governments, straining the resources of police and prosecutors as the heroin crisis worsens. The Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed both FitzGerald and Pepper, citing in part their aggressive proposals for combatting heroin and concerns over the local government cuts.

When DeWine and Kasich took office in January 2011, heroin was a distant second to prescription painkillers as a cause of concern. The state tackled the problem with a successful crackdown on pills-on-demand pain clinics masquerading as legitimate medical centers.

But addicts’ move to cheaper and more readily available heroin cut the celebration short and by 2013, growing numbers of heroin deaths were the headline.

DeWine’s has held numerous forums with local police, community leaders and schools where — like Pepper — he emphasizes tougher laws, education, prevention and treatment. He announced the creation of a special heroin unit on Nov. 8.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” DeWine said at a heroin summit at a suburban Columbus high school earlier this year that was also attended by Kasich.

FitzGerald called Kasich’s attendance “hypocritical” given cuts to local government funding. Ohio Democrats have labeled such summits and forums “pep talks.”

Among other initiatives, the Kasich administration cites an anti-drug addiction program for school children and a new law allowing friends or family members of addicts to administer the drug overdose antidote, naloxone, marketed as Narcan, without fear of prosecution.

For information on local issues and candidates, visit the Times Recorder’s voter guide at ZanesvilleTimesRecorder.com/voterguide.

Toledo Blade: Pepper to DeWine – Stop fighting Ohio’s gay marriage ban

Published: Tuesday, 10/7/2014 – Updated: 2 weeks ago

With the Supreme Court leaving the question of same-sex marriage alone for now, the Democratic candidate for Ohio attorney general said today that Republican Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop defending Ohio’s ban.

“Yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court means that Americans in 30 states will likely soon enjoy marriage equality, with more to come. The longer Mr. DeWine wastes time and tax dollars fighting on the wrong side of the Constitution and history, the further behind Ohio will fall. It’s long past time to move on and move forward,” David Pepper said.

Mr. DeWine responded that that he has an obligation to defend the 2004 Constitutional amendment that prohibited same-sex marriage in Ohio.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to consider appeals from five states whose marriage bans have been struck down by federal appellate courts as unconstitutional. The ruling effectively legitimized marriages, at least for now, between two men or two women in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Mr. Pepper said it could have the effect of legalizing same-sex marriage in 30 states.

In the case pending in front of the federal appeals court in Cincinnati, plaintiffs claim that Ohio must recognize marriages performed in other states. The federal court could rule at any time.

“He should defend those laws except when those laws clearly violate the Constitution. Mike DeWine is in court trying to erase the marriage from the death certificate from a man who died last October,” Mr. Pepper said. “To be attacking a man’s marriage when he died a year ago is about as appalling a use of the job as I can think of. I’ll defend many cases I don’t agree with, but what I won’t defend is a law that’s unconstitutional.”

Mr. Pepper said Mr. DeWine has the power to simply drop the appeal, just as the Republican governor of Pennsylvania dropped his state’s appeal of a ruling against a gay marriage statute.

Mr. DeWine, a former U.S. Senator who was elected attorney general in 2010, is seeking re-election. Mr. Pepper is a former Cincinnati city councilman and former Hamilton County commissioner. Early voting for attorney general and other statewide and local offices and ballot questions began today.

Mr. DeWine said Mr. Pepper misunderstands the job he’s running for.

“I don’t have, as attorney general, the luxury of deciding which parts of Ohio’s constitution to defend. If the voters of Ohio 10 years ago had voted to allow gay marriage and that was in the Ohio Constitution Ii would defend that against attack. This is what the atty general does. It’s one more example that David Pepper doesn‘t get it,” Mr. DeWine said.

He noted that former Democratic state Attorney General Lee Fisher once defended an anti-abortion statute that he personally disagreed with but that had “a reasonable constitutional basis.”

Mr. DeWine reiterated his personal belief marriage should be only between a man and a woman, but added, “my personal opinion has nothing to do with it.”

Mr. Pepper noted that Mr. DeWine earlier this year gave his personal opinion about an Ohio law that was up for constitutional review by the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, Mr. DeWine defended the law under which candidates and groups can be punished for knowingly make false statements in political ads, but personally filed a brief agreeing with the plaintiffs that the law has a “potentially chilling effect” on free speech.

DeWine spokesman Ryan Stubenbrauch said a difference between the campaign advertising law and the same-sex marriage law is that the first was a statute enacted a long time ago by the General Assembly while the gay-marriage ban was approved by Ohio voters less than 10 years ago.

A federal district judge in Cincinnati in April struck down the part of Ohio’s ban on gay marriage when it comes to recognizing marriages legally performed in other states.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058 or on Twitter @TomFTroy.

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/Politics/2014/10/07/Pepper-to-DeWine-Stop-fighting-Ohio-s-gay-marriage-ban.html#8PZVmEQJGF71dl1P.99

Toledo Blade: Pepper for Ohio AG (Endorsement)

One of Ohio’s best-known political figures, Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine, seeks a second term. He faces an aggressive challenge from Democrat David Pepper, an attorney, former Cincinnati City Council member, and past president of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. The Blade recommends the election of DAVID PEPPER.

The winner of next month’s election will become Ohio’s top cop for the next four years, supervising more than 1,600 employees and overseeing a $261 million annual budget. The attorney general’s office helps local police agencies and enforces laws on predatory lending, consumer protection, health-care fraud, anti-trust cases, and charitable organizations. The Ohio attorney general earns an annual salary of $109,564.

Mr. DeWine’s tenure has had several high points. He has reduced the state’s backlog of untested rape kits, and shortened average wait times for new DNA testing from 125 days to 23 days.

The attorney general started calling for old DNA evidence in 2011, encouraging Ohio’s 800 law enforcement agencies to clear their testable sexual-assault evidence shelves. Since then, police agencies have submitted more than 8,300 rape kits for testing by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Slightly more than half of the old kits — many of them 10 to 20 years old — have been tested. Ohio’s backlog of old DNA kits should be cleared in about a year.

Responding to the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic, Mr. DeWine conducted about a dozen town hall meetings around the state, wisely and properly using his bully pulpit to raise awareness of a growing public health problem. Mr. DeWine also created a $1 million heroin unit to assist local police agencies with larger, long-term cases.

“We can’t arrest our way out of the problem,” Mr. DeWine has, prudently, stated on numerous occasions. In August, his office granted Lucas County $500,000 for recovery housing and another $150,000 to support the Sheriff’s Office’s addiction resource unit.

Before he became attorney general in 2011, Mr. DeWine, 67, served as a U.S. senator and House member, county prosecutor, state senator, and lieutenant governor under Gov. George Voinovich.

Mr. Pepper, a Yale University graduate, is also well qualified for the job. He has managed a large county, clerked for a respected U.S. Court of Appeals judge, and taken a lead role in improving police-community relations in Cincinnati. He teaches at the University of Cincinnati’s law school.

Overall, Mr. Pepper has an unusually sharp grasp of urban issues — a perspective that’s sorely lacking in Ohio state government. The son of former Procter & Gamble CEO John Pepper, he ran unsuccessfully for Cincinnati mayor in 2005. He was elected county commissioner a year later, but lost a close race for state auditor in 2010 .

Mr. Pepper, 42, accuses Mr. DeWine of bid-rigging and using the attorney general’s office to advance a far-right political agenda. As the underdog, he has overreached in some criticisms of Mr. DeWine, but generally has been on point.

He denounces what he calls rampant pay-to-play politics in the attorney general’s office, and vows sweeping reforms in how bids are awarded.

Mr. Pepper’s charges of bid-rigging may be exaggerated. Nevertheless, records appear to correlate numerous campaign contributions to Mr. DeWine with contract awards. At the very least, they give the appearance of a process that is tainted and less than honest.

Mr. DeWine denies any wrongdoing, including a connection between campaign donations and contract awards. To his credit, he has heard the critics and vowed to be more transparent in how bids are awarded. But he has rejected some of Mr. Pepper’s sensible reforms, such as prohibiting fund-raising activity during the bulk of the bidding process.

Contract awarding under Mr. DeWine has fallen short of the highest standards of accountability and transparency — standards that the state’s chief law enforcement officer ought to meet.

Even more troubling is Mr. DeWine’s penchant for using his office to fight ill-advised and divisive legal battles around the country. He has become a national leader among state attorneys general in trying to stop birth control coverage mandates stemming from the Affordable Care Act. He also has involved himself in out-of-state cases on abortion and gun control.

Mr. DeWine is hardly the first attorney general to weigh in on out-of-state court cases. But repeatedly using a statewide office to fight partisan and ideological legal battles around the country, representing the views of the extreme right, is troubling. The Ohio attorney general should focus on what matters to the vast majority of the people of this state.

Mr. Pepper has also made mistakes. He racked up nearly $10,000 in fines for violations that include expired license plates and parking tickets over a 14-year period. Mr. Pepper was sent more than 160 delinquency violations for failing to pay tickets. All fines were eventually paid.

This too is troubling for a candidate who wants to be attorney general. Still, when voters elect an attorney general, parking tickets are less relevant than murky business dealings and use of the office to advance a partisan agenda.

Courteous and soft-spoken, Mr. DeWine is an old-school gentleman who has never let the trappings of power go to his head. For four decades, he has, for the most part, served the state with honor, dedication, and integrity.

But it’s time for a change. Mr. Pepper represents a fresh voice. Smart and tough, he has enormous potential to become an outstanding attorney general.

Now more than ever, the state needs an energetic attorney general who will serve all the people of Ohio and uphold the highest standards of accountability, transparency, and honesty. Ohio needs DAVID PEPPER as its next top cop.

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/Featured-Editorial-Home/2014/10/05/Pepper-for-Ohio-AG.html#z42IqavG5TEVm1BM.99

Plain Dealer: David Pepper addresses violence against women at City Club

By Ryllie Danylko, Northeast Ohio Media Group
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on October 01, 2014 at 6:00 PM, updated October 01, 2014 at 6:44 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Democratic candidate for Ohio attorney general David Pepper took several digs at incumbent Mike DeWine’s absence during an appearance Wednesday at the City Club of Cleveland.

Pepper began the forum, which was supposed to be a debate, by expressing his disappointment at DeWine’s refusal to appear, calling it embarrassing for the Republican.

“What kind of attorney is afraid to stand up and make their case?” Pepper asked.

DeWine declined to participate in what was supposed to be a debate, saying the public already had enough opportunities to get to know the candidates at other joint appearances, including one with the Northeast Ohio Media Group editorial board.

Pepper also discussed the state’s heroin epidemic, untested rape kits and domestic violence, among other topics. Here are some highlights.

On Ohio’s heroin epidemic

Pepper said Ohio is taking steps backward in combating a heroin crisis. He noted that the state cut funding for treatment in July and he accused DeWine of acting too late in addressing the crisis.

On violence against women

Pepper discussed the NFL’s recent suspension of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice, who was banned from the league after a video surfaced of him knocking out his fiancee.

Pepper said the fact that it took releasing the tape to get the NFL to take action shows society’s tendency to turn the other cheek on domestic violence.

He also cited the Steubenville rape case, the three Cleveland women held captive for nearly a decade, and the state’s untested rape kits.

Pepper said the attorney general should lead the way with a proactive plan to help prevent domestic violence and change the culture of looking the other way when violence occurs.

On Ohio’s domestic violence laws

Ohio needs to have broader domestic violence laws that capture a wider range of abuses, Pepper said.

Pepper said he also plans to use the attorney general’s office to enforce laws requiring witnesses to report a crime. He referenced the three young men who witnessed the Steubenville rape and failed to report it.

“Those three young men were told by Mr. DeWine that they didn’t commit a crime,” Pepper said.

The candidate also wants to make sure Ohio universities are doing everything they can to address sexual assault and promote safe campuses, as part of a national movement toward preventing rape at universities.

On the untested Cleveland rape kits

Pepper commended DeWine for beginning the process of testing the almost 4,000 untested Cleveland rape kits, but said he is not acting with enough urgency.

Over the past several months, more rape kits were sent to a state lab for testing,  Pepper said. Testing 300 a month is not enough, according to Pepper, especially given the high conviction rate from the kits that have been tested.

Pepper proposed partnering with local labs to share the work of testing the remaining rape kits.

The candidate ended by saying the Attorney General’s Office should be a resource for victims of abuse or assault.

More from the forum, including the Q&A session, can be found in the comments section of this story.

Link: http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/10/post_251.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Athens News: David Pepper will serve justice, not ideology (Endorsement)

We enthusiastically endorse David Pepper as Ohio Attorney General in the Nov. 4 election. Pepper is a smart and energetic candidate of integrity who will upgrade an office that’s been vulnerable to special interests and political influence under incumbent Mike DeWine.

A Yale-educated lawyer, Pepper has served on Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County Commission. While in those offices, he partnered with local law enforcement to successfully fight crime.

As the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio stated in its endorsement of Pepper, as a Cincinnati City Council member, he “worked hand-in-hand with police… Pepper added police to the streets, passed new laws to crack down on crime, and helped lead negotiations” on an agreement that helped heal the deep rifts between law enforcement and community.

Pepper has smart and workable ideas for ramping up and fine-tuning the campaign against Ohio’s growing heroin and prescription pill crisis, protecting young people from online predators, and pushing efforts to discourage and penalize sexual assault.

Mike DeWine, meanwhile, is well known to Ohioans, for his nearly 34 years in office, including two terms as a U.S. Senator.

As Ohio’s Attorney General, DeWine has too often let his conservative ideology veer him away from serving the moderate political values of the great majority of Ohio voters.

On the hot-button issues of gay marriage and abortion, DeWine has gotten involved in national battles with little connection to his job description in Ohio.

In a statement in June, Pepper correctly blasted DeWine for getting actively involved in the divisive Hobby Lobby case: “Ohioans deserve to know that Mike DeWine led the charge nationally, using his public office and taxpayer dollars to wage a three-year ideological crusade. He has entered courts across the country to stop birth control coverage and even authored the amicus brief on behalf of numerous attorneys general at the Supreme Court to support Hobby Lobby. This case was all about Washington, D.C. politics and the Tea Party agenda, and DeWine advocated against Ohio’s women every step of the way.”

DeWine, a foe of gay marriage, also has made it clear that he will continue to actively fight any efforts to roll back Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage. In July, he asked a federal appeals court to overturn an earlier ruling in favor of several gay couples who had challenged the Ohio ban successfully.

While DeWine argued that he was just asking the court to comply with the majority of Ohioans who voted in 2004 to prohibit gay marriage, his energy and alacrity in pursuing this course ignores the significant shift in public opinion toward tolerance of gay marriage in the past decade.

DeWine also has received justified criticism for participating in the “pay to play” culture in Columbus, for awarding valuable special-counsel contracts to people and firms who contributed substantial amounts of money to his political campaign and the Ohio Republican Party.

Ohio needs an Attorney General who will run a professional office without being susceptible to political influence or prone to distracting ideological adventures. David Pepper’s record suggests he will be that sort of AG. Vote for David Pepper for Ohio Attorney General.

Link: http://www.athensnews.com/ohio/article-43278-david-pepper-he-will-serve-justice-not-ideology-or-party.html

Dispatch: Attorney general candidates DeWine, Pepper are vastly different

By Alan JohnsonThe Columbus Dispatch  •  Sunday September 21, 2014 11:37 AM
The candidates for Ohio attorney general are both lawyers who are competitive and have boundless energy. Beyond that, Republican incumbent Mike DeWine and Democrat David Pepper share little common ground.

DeWine, 67, grew up in small-town Yellow Springs, Ohio, got his law degree from Ohio Northern University, and has been in public office 34 of the past 38 years, including two terms in the U.S. Senate.

Pepper, 43, hails from Cincinnati, graduated from Yale University Law School, and spent two years in Russia working for a U.S. research group. His political experience is limited to two offices in Hamilton County and a failed race for state auditor.

The DeWine-Pepper clash has been the most spirited of statewide campaigns other than the gubernatorial race. Charges and countercharges have been flying in speeches, news releases and social media. So far, neither campaign has aired television commercials, although each has the money to do so in the final stages of the campaign.

…….

Pepper was not born into a wealthy family, although his father, John, eventually rose to become the powerful chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble, a multinational company based in Cincinnati.

“Dad had Wiedemann’s beer in the pantry,” Pepper said. “He wouldn’t have a Coke; he had Circle K (from Cincinnati’s Kroger Co.). From the day he started, he was pinching pennies.”

Still, Pepper acknowledged, he was “very lucky” to have a family that could afford to send him to Yale University. “I feel like I’ve been given enormous opportunities. … Giving back through public service always seemed the path I should take.”

After graduating from Yale, Pepper went to work in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., research group. It was a heady experience for a man in his 20s, rubbing elbows with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Vladimir Putin, then an adviser in the St. Petersburg mayor’s office.

Returning to the U.S., Pepper went to law school and was a clerk for Judge Nathaniel Jones of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from 1999 to 2000.

“I was very impressed with him,” said Jones, who served on the court from 1979 to 2003. “He was always seeking solutions. … Rather than curse the darkness, David was always trying to light candles.”

Jones said his former clerk would make an excellent attorney general. “He understands the office and the role. He sees it as more than a political steppingstone to governor or some other office. He’s a person of unquestioned honesty and integrity.

While he could have gone to work for a large firm in Washington or New York, as many of his Yale classmates did, Pepper, a fifth-generation Cincinnatian, returned to find that his city was in disarray, struggling with finances, stalled riverfront development and race riots in 2001.

Pepper said he decided to run for Cincinnati City Council but didn’t know how. “I went to Amazon.com and bought books about how to run a campaign.” He came up with a slogan, “Just Add Pepper,” and was off on a successful inaugural campaign, finishing first among 26 candidates. He was re-elected in 2003 and won election as a Hamilton County commissioner in 2006.

When former Gov. Ted Strickland asked Pepper to run for state auditor in 2010, he said he “took a long time to think about it. It was a big decision.” Pepper made a respectful showing, losing by 5 percent to Republican Dave Yost.

Key issues

How do you plan to deal with the heroin and prescription-drug crisis in Ohio?

DeWine: The attorney general’s office has been on the front lines helping Ohio communities fight back. When prescription pills were killing Ohioans in 2011, we took action, then shifted resources to combat the exploding growth of heroin use. We emphasize a multifaceted approach: cracking down on high-level drug dealers, grass-roots solutions involving education and prevention for communities, and innovative ideas to improve recovery for addicts.

Pepper: Sadly, the state and Attorney General DeWine have no comprehensive plan to deal with the state’s heroin epidemic, and it shows. Overdose deaths have been exploding by 50-60 percent per year. I will attack this crisis by expanding high-quality treatment and prevention services, cracking down on trafficking and dealers, and expanding the use of life-saving anti-overdose medications. I will provide support for prosecutors so that they can hold dealers accountable for a homicide whenever the heroin they sell causes an overdose death.

How would you protect women from rape and other forms of violence?

DeWine: We took action when others did not and called for statewide testing of all untested rape kits across Ohio. (About) 8,500 kits, some that had sat for up to 20 years, have been sent to the lab and almost 5,000 have been tested. More than 200 rapists have been indicted and dozens of serial rapists have been uncovered. The kits are being tested in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.

Pepper: Ohio has seen too many high-profile cases of violence against women but little in the way of a comprehensive response. Under my plan, we will establish a zero-tolerance approach to assaults on college campuses, expand services for violence and sexual-assault survivors and speed up the testing of the thousands of old rape kits sitting on shelves throughout the state.

What is your plan for protecting vulnerable Ohioans?

DeWine: In Ohio, we have almost 1.7 million people over the age of 65. Sadly, there’s no shortage of crooks who target this generation with abuse, scams, and theft. We have cracked down on these criminals from my first day in office, launching a new unit that has indicted more than 110 scam artists, and launching an Elder Justice Initiative that pools resources to increase prosecution of nursing-home abuse and caregiver fraud.

Pepper: Nothing we do is more important than protecting Ohio’s children. I will do so by restoring funding for school-safety and drug-prevention officers, which AG DeWine has cut every year he’s been in office. I will modernize the office to crack down on online predators, including processing computer and digital evidence faster, since so many crimes targeting children now take place online and involve digital evidence.

Link: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/09/20/dewine-pepper-are-vastly-different.html

Sidney Daily News: Pepper visits Shelby County, school safety practices draw AG candidate

Last updated: September 11. 2014 3:20PM – 553 Views By rlloyd@civitasmedia.com

SIDNEY — The Democrat candidate for state attorney general, David Pepper, visited Shelby County Thursday morning to see for himself how this small county in rural Western Ohio has pulled ahead of the pack in protecting its children.

Pepper said he was drawn to Shelby County when he heard about the sheriff’s program of hiring retired law enforcement officers to work as full-time school security officers.

County Sheriff John Lenhart, a Republican and a veteran of the state attorney general’s office, said he was eager for the candidate to visit and see the great strides the county has made in protecting schoolchildren.

“I think the security of our children should cross party lines,” Lenhart said. “We can’t think of anything more important we do in law enforcement than protecting our kids.”

Pepper visited Sidney Middle School and Emerson Elementary, meeting the officers in charge of school security and learning about the measures that have been put in place to protect the children.

Lenhart told him about the school officers’ duties and also about the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) training the school teachers and officials have completed through the sheriff’s office. Lenhart said every school in the county, except Lehman, completed ALICE training through the sheriff’s office before the start of school this year.

Deputy Rick Cron, the former Piqua Police officer who heads security at Sidney Middle School, told Pepper, “We make sure everything’s secure and people are properly passed. We watch the cameras.”

Pepper was shown the monitor displaying footage from several security cameras placed strategically throughout the middle school.

At Emerson, Pepper met Deputy Michael E. Henry, former longtime Logan County Sheriff, who said his current position is “the greatest job I’ve ever had in my life.”

Henry told Pepper of his daily interaction with the students and stressed the difference it can make in a child’s outlook and future to have daily, positive interaction with a uniformed officer.

Lenhart made it clear that the school officers do not just stand in a corner looking intimidating or wander the halls looking for bad guys — they interact with the students, acting as tutors, mentors, supporters and positive role models.

As if to illustrate the point, after frequent glances at his watch, Henry excused himself and cut short his chat with Pepper to meet a prior commitment — his regular appointment with an autistic first-grader whom Henry escorts to gym class. Moments later, Henry reappeared with a big smile, being pulled along at the hand of a rosy-cheeked, chattering charmer in a hurry to get to the jump ropes.

One of the key portions of Pepper’s campaign platform is “Protecting Ohio’s Children,” which specifically includes a goal of getting uniformed officers back into schools.

According to figures from the attorney general’s office included in Pepper’s campaign materials, In 2010, the attorney general office provided grant support to 380 DARE/SRO (Drug Abuse Resistance Education/schoolresource officer) officers. In the past three years, that number dropped to 302 in 2012-13, to 288 in 2013-14 and to 228 in 2014-15.

Pepper’s child protection plan also addresses charter school accountability, abuse prevention, online safety and gun law enforcement.

Link: http://www.sidneydailynews.com/news/home_top-news-politics/50606932/Pepper-visits-Shelby-County

Dispatch: Pepper calls for charter school accountability

By Alan JohnsonThe Columbus Dispatch  •  Wednesday September 10, 2014 1:54 AM

Troubled charter schools are “reaching a crisis level” in Ohio and must be made accountable for putting students and taxpayers in peril, David Pepper, Democratic candidate for attorney general, said yesterday.

“We need to take a timeout,” Pepper told a retired-teachers council at the Ohio Education Association, 225 E. Broad St. “There’s millions of dollars missing” from failed and failing charter schools. “If this was a company doing trash pickup, it would be a big scandal.”

As part of his “Protecting Ohio’s Children” plan, Pepper said, if elected on Nov. 4, he will get tough on charter schools — something he says Attorney General Mike DeWine has not done.

DeWine’s office dropped out of an Ohio Supreme Court case that pitted charter-school operators against for-profit White Hat Management over who gets to keep computers, textbooks and equipment purchased with taxpayer dollars. White Hat owner David Brennan is a major campaign contributor to DeWine and the Republican Party — a reason DeWine didn’t pursue the case, Pepper claimed.

“When it hit the Ohio Supreme Court, the attorney general abandoned the case and the schoolchildren of Ohio,” Pepper said.

But DeWine’s office staff previously said the decision not to continue the White Hat case was made because the judge had dropped the Ohio Department of Education, whom the attorney general represents, as a party. It was decided that a friend of the court filing would be inappropriate, they said.

A Dispatch analysis this year found that 29 percent of Ohio’s charter schools have closed, dating to 1997 when they became legal. About 400 charters are operating, but 134 have closed.

Some shut down because of money problems, others because students weren’t getting healthy lunches or buildings were unsanitary. In one case, students were reportedly allowed to engage in sexual activity in a Dayton charter school.

Pepper also said he will work to rectify Ohio’s school-funding system, ruled unconstitutional in 1997 by the Ohio Supreme Court and never fixed to be “thorough and efficient.”

The system is going in the wrong direction, Pepper said, by increasingly relying on local revenue and less on the state, the exact opposite of the direction dictated by the court 17 years ago.

Christine McVicar, a retired schoolteacher from the Marietta area, said her son, now 28, was in elementary school when the DeRolph school-funding decision was issued. While he made it to college, “it was not a level playing field for him” because of school-funding inequities, she said.

“We are wasting the talent of so many students that could be adding to the state of Ohio,” McVicar said.

DeWine campaign spokesman Ryan Stubenrauch slammed Pepper for overreaching.

“If he’s elected the lawyer of the state, he’s going to do the job of the legislature, the governor and the attorney general all at the same time.

“No one is saying school funding is perfect right now,” Stubenrauch said. “But it’s inappropriate and unethical for the attorney general to be standing on the street corner yelling, ‘ My client is breaking the law.’  ”

Link: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/09/09/Pepper_on_charter_schools.html

AP: Pepper criticizes drop in DARE funding

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — More money should be found to pay for D.A.R.E. and school resources police officers as Ohio’s heroin’s epidemic worsens, the Democratic candidate for Ohio attorney general said Tuesday as he criticized his opponent for a drop in funding in recent years.

The attorney general’s office helped fund 380 D.A.R.E. and resource officers in 2010, the last year of Democrat Richard Cordray’s term in office, a figure that has fallen to 228 this year, Democrat David Pepper said.

Pepper pledged to work with state lawmakers and local police to boost the numbers.

A record 1,914 Ohioans died of drug overdoses in 2012, including 680 heroin-related deaths, according to the most recent state Health Department records. Since 2007, more Ohioans have died of accidental drug overdoses than car crashes.

Pepper has criticized his opponent, GOP incumbent Mike DeWine, for responding slowly and ineffectively to the heroin crisis. DeWine has said the problem was unprecedented and he has launched numerous efforts to combat it.

Funding for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or D.A.R.E., dropped during the recession as schools and local police had less money available, DeWine’s office said.

Another funding source, state license reinstatement fees, dropped 3 percent a year for the past four years, according to a report commissioned by DeWine last year that also found D.A.R.E. participation dropping as schools questioned its effectiveness.

The report concluded that consideration should be given to funding programs that are part of an overall approach to the drug problem, including merging prevention and treatment programs.

Link: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/politics/elections/2014/09/09/pepper-criticizes-drop-dare-funding/15342455/