This year’s race for governor has been one of substance. That reflects well on Richard Cordray and Mike DeWine. If they lack stage presence, they have plans for the opioid epidemic, the skills gap and other priorities. So it has been disappointing to see a recent ad aired by the DeWine camp. It returns to a hollow charge that Ted Strickland and his fellow Democrats were responsible for the loss of 400,000 Ohio jobs during the recession a decade ago. “Don’t go back,” the ad warns.

Yet, across the country, Democratic and Republican governors experienced the same during the deep downturn. Here, state leaders drained the rainy day fund because it was pouring. In its way, the ad actually boomerangs, indicating more about DeWine than his opponent. This is a tired line of attack. It reinforces the impression of a Republican Party too long in complete control at the Statehouse.

Thus, it makes an argument for change. We recommend the election of Richard Cordray on Nov. 6. Click here for more Beacon Journal/Ohio.com endorsements.

Cordray has been sharply critical of DeWine, cudgeling the state attorney general for not doing enough to fight the opioid epidemic and for advocating the end of the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, the appeal of the Cordray candidacy has been the greater ambition he has for the state. The former lawmaker, county treasurer, state treasurer, state auditor and director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is ready to push Ohio in a different direction. He wants to invest — in Ohioans and the foundation of the economy and communities.

That is evident is in his call for restoring the Local Government Fund, in his full support of the Medicaid expansion, in his proposed bond package for public works and his pledge to deliver tuition-free community college. If that last item is an obvious stretch, it still makes a telling point.

Ohio has been lagging in talent, growth, job creation, population and other leading measures. The state has tried tax cuts for the past 13 years. It has too little to show beyond riding the national expansion.

Cordray understands this is not about some magic pot of money. An investment strategy takes time to succeed. He is eager to start by altering priorities, even examining the $9 billion a year the state spends on tax breaks to see whether the resources could be better deployed.

How much would Cordray get done as he contends with the all but certain Republican legislative majorities? His election would be a message to lawmakers about what matters to Ohioans. That includes abortion rights. Mike DeWine has pledged to sign the heartbeat bill. Cordray would push back against such extreme acts.

DeWine long has eyed the governor’s office. He would bring the experience and knowledge he has gathered in four decades of public life, from the legislature to Congress, as lieutenant governor and in his current post. He has shown the leadership expected of a governor with his plans for enhancing child care and early education. He wants to see additional funds to help school districts address the burden of poverty on education.

Yet too much about his campaign misses the necessary ambition and at times appears stale. He now supports the Medicaid expansion but with misguided conditions. His economic “opportunity zones” echo past misadventures in tax incentives. He has been cagey about going forward with public works and funding for local governments. Perhaps that’s about playing the realist. The worry is that it leaves him without sufficient leverage at the Statehouse, the door open to business as usual, or not a pretty sight in view of the recent scandals and inaction.

Better to see Richard Cordray in the governor’s office challenging Republicans with more defined ideas and fresher perspectives.

Click here for more fall 2018 endorsements