Incumbent DeWine holds off challengers in Ohio GOP governor primary race

By: - May 4, 2022 12:18 am

COLUMBUS, OH — MAY 03: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine waves to supporters while joined on stage by First Lady Fran DeWine and grandson Calvin to celebrate DeWine winning the Republican Party nomination for governor in the Ohio primary election, May 3, 2022, at the DeWine-Husted campaign headquarters, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal.)

Incumbent Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine cruised to a primary win Tuesday, and now sets his sights on former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, his Democratic opponent in the 2022 race for governor this November. DeWine’s victory was never really in doubt thanks in large part to a crowded primary field that split the conservative wing of Ohio’s Republican party.

The governor’s supporters have been quick to defend his conservative bona fides. DeWine signed the “heartbeat” bill early in his administration, and followed that up by signing a so-called “born alive” measure last December. After the mass shooting in Dayton, DeWine promised to “do something” on gun violence prevention. His plan was an attempt at compromise that went nowhere and raised the hackles of gun rights organizations. Since then, he’s signed so-called “stand your ground” legislation as well as a measure allowing Ohioans to carry concealed weapons without a license.

Still, many conservative Ohioans can’t forgive DeWine for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Look, all I want to see is Donald Trump back in the White House and Gov. DeWine out as governor,” Mindy Peck said at Donald Trump’s rally last month. She came from Zanesville with Eric Gregg — both were interested in farmer Joe Blystone.

A different pair of attendees were quick to dismiss DeWine but said they were backing former congressman Jim Renacci.

Earlier this year, a group of Republicans attempted to stop the state party from endorsing a candidate in the gubernatorial primary. GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mark Pukita brought out a number of supporters to protest, and he rejected the idea that it’s the party’s job to tap a candidate best prepared to win in November.

“They’re going to endorse Mike DeWine, and Mike DeWine will get slaughtered in the general election if he wins the primary. So I’m not I’m not buying that,” he argued at the time.

The party wound up endorsing the full slate of Republican statewide officeholders including DeWine.

All of those current statewide Republican officeholders won their primaries Tuesday in unofficial results, including Attorney General Dave Yost, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Auditor Keith Faber, and Treasurer Robert Sprague.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Jeffrey A. Crossman will face Yost for AG; Forest Park council member Chelsea Clark will face LaRose for secretary of state; Nelsonville Auditor Taylor Sappington will face Faber for auditor, and Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer will face Sprague for treasurer.

COLUMBUS, OH — MAY 03: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine joined on stage by First Lady Fran DeWine, grandson Calvin, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Second Lady Tina Husted to celebrate DeWine winning the Republican Party nomination for governor in the Ohio primary election, May 3, 2022, at the DeWine-Husted campaign headquarters, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes)

Throughout the GOP primary race for governor, Renacci and Blystone tried to distinguish themselves as the true conservative while trying out different attacks on DeWine. They labeled DeWine a RINO, played up his connections to the HB6 and First Energy scandal, and bashed him as too soft on gun rights. But with both candidates vying for the same chunk of voters, neither was able to emerge and pose a serious threat to the incumbent.

Neither candidate could really keep up with DeWine from a funding perspective either. DeWine’s fundraising figures haven’t been all rosy. He’s raised about as much as he did during his initial gubernatorial bid, but he’s seen a noticeable shift when it comes to contributions from individuals.

Pre-primary campaign finance reports show Renacci spent just over $2 million on his bid to unseat DeWine since the start of this year. Blystone spent less than a tenth as much. DeWine, meanwhile, spent close to $3 million and still wound up with more than three times as much cash on hand as Renacci, his closest Republican competitor.

DeWine’s team seemed well aware of the tactical realities they were facing. His campaign schedule was perhaps best described as leisurely. While his opponents attacked his administration, DeWine ran ads attacking President Joe Biden and focusing on accomplishments like cutting income taxes and bringing an Intel facility to the state.



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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.