Cordray in Springfield: Lawmakers at war with local governments

Richard Cordray, Democratic candidate for governor, met with about two dozen supporters in Springfield on Tuesday, where he argued policies enacted by the majority-Republican legislature in Columbus have harmed local communities.

Cordray’s visit at the Comfort Inn and Suites was one of the his first stops after announcing last week that he planned to run for governor. Cordray recently resigned as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency he led for about six years that was tasked with protecting consumers from deceptive or abusive financial practices.

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In that role, Cordray said he led an agency that returned about $12 billion nationally to consumers who have been harmed by banks and other financial agencies. He also said he played a similar role while previously serving as Ohio Attorney General and would continue to stand up for consumers if elected governor.

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“I thought it was important to hold Wall Street accountable for the damage they had done to our state,” Cordray said. “There was a lot of fraud, there were a lot of irresponsible financial practices and we brought lawsuits on behalf of the state of Ohio against AIG, against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, against Bank of America and many major players to bring back money and put it in the pockets of Ohioans that never should have had it taken from them in the first place.”

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But Republican critics, including Clark County Republican Party Chairwoman Lynda Smith, have said Cordray was overzealous in his role at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Smith said the federal agency had little oversight and Cordray was too aggressive in regulating the financial industry.

“I didn’t like the job he did in Washington,” Smith said. “He tended to overreach. That bureau was not accountable to anyone and I think they kind of got a little out of hand.”

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Cordray countered that the agency filled a necessary role for consumers who had few resources compared to large banks and other financial agencies

“I frankly think it was needed,” Cordray said. “People when they’re battling large financial companies need to have someone standing on their side to make sure they’re treated fairly and that’s what we did.”

Through cuts to local government funds, he said Republican lawmakers in Columbus have slashed resources to local communities. And he said Republicans overrode efforts by cities like Dayton and Toledo to curb predatory lending, while doing little to resolve the issue themselves.

“This state legislature in Ohio has been waging a war on local government for years,” Cordray said.

Cordray has twice won statewide office, which he argued will give him the best chance in next year’s governor’s race. He narrowly lost a re-election bid in 2010 to current Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican also running for governor.

“Next year will be different,” Cordray said of the race with DeWine. “If that’s the rematch I’m looking forward to it.”

Several other candidates have lined up to run for Ohio governor next year. The Republican candidates are DeWine, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci.

The other Democratic candidates are Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni and former state Rep. Connie Pillich.

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