Nan Whaley speaking with supporters at the Kava House in Wilmington. (Photo by Nick Evans, OCJ.)
In Wilmington Thursday, Nan Whaley hosted a coffee date with about 20 supporters at the Kava House. The group lined the walls of a Victorian sitting room with 18-foot ceilings branching off from the coffee shop. The meet and greet marked Whaley’s 88th county visit, crossing every county in the state off her list before early voting begins next Tuesday.
On the stump, Whaley’s pitch is straightforward: wages up, costs down, government that works for you. It’s a simple recipe, and one that politicians on both sides of the aisle have employed.
Whaley offered direct and indirect ideas for pushing wages higher. She supports a $15 minimum wage and more reliance on union work for public projects. She also argued for more investment in clean energy manufacturing.
In reference to Ohio’s recent deal to bring Intel to the state, Whaley said, “I know this administration likes really big projects with really big ribbons,” but she doesn’t reject business incentives writ large. Instead, Whaley said she would spread those resources more broadly.
The familiar economic development toolkit, trading cash or tax breaks for new jobs, wouldn’t disappear, she said. But Whaley would emphasize not just emerging sectors like renewable energy, but much smaller companies — employing 50 people or less.
“The answer to this state for our young people cannot be if you want to stay in Ohio, you need to move to Columbus, right?” she said. “We need to invest all across the state of Ohio and I think small business is key to that.”
One achievement the former mayor of Dayton likes to bring up is the city’s move to universal pre-K. Whaley noted that city voters approved the idea in the same 2016 election where their county voted for Donald Trump.
She argued expanding pre-K statewide would not just unburden pocketbooks, it would give families the flexibility to women who opted out of the workforce.
“Frankly, it’s because they cannot pencil child care out,” Whaley argued. “It’s either scarce, they can’t find it because the pay is so low and they can’t find it around their communities. Or it’s so expensive it’s out of reach.”
Also, when it comes to lowering bills, Whaley is quick to bring up utility costs as a way to criticize the DeWine administration’s entanglement in the ongoing House Bill 6, First Energy political bribery scandal.
Government that works for you
If elected, Whaley promised to do more to support local leaders, and in particular, their budgets.
“(They’re) doing their level best to try to move their community forward trying to find ways and solutions, but they do not have a partner with the Statehouse,” Whaley said. “On a good day, they ignore local communities. And on a bad day, they actively try to undermine them.”
She criticized state tax policy that offered big cuts to companies in the hopes of that more of them would flock to Ohio. Meanwhile, Whaley argued, local governments have to look to revenue sources like property tax levies to fund services.
Even if Whaley were to win the primary and the general election, she’ll have her work cut out for her. If Ohio’s redistricting fight resolves itself as the state constitution envisioned, the Statehouse might be paler shade of red, but it will still be a Republican-led institution. Given Gov. DeWine’s failure to gain traction within his own party for watered down gun control and criminal justice measures, it’s hard to imagine Whaley making progress easily. The primary lever she mentions is the line-item veto.
“I think it gives you power to make decisions to get the things you need,” she explained after the campaign event. “That’s what makes the line-item veto so powerful.”
Whether a veto threat can forge compromise — and what level of horse trading a potential-Gov. Whaley could stomach — remains to be seen.
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