Whaley cruises in Ohio Dem governor primary

By: - May 4, 2022 12:20 am

Nan Whaley, former mayor of Dayton, responds to a question in the Ohio Gubernatorial Democratic Primary Debate with John Cranley, former mayor of Cincinnati, at the Paul Robeson Cultural & Performing Arts Center at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Meg Vogel/Ohio Debate Commission

DAYTON — The next Ohio governor will be from the Southwest portion of the state.

Former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley scored an easy victory in Tuesday’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. The Associated Press called the race early in the evening as Whaley was leading former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley by a margin of two to one.

Whaley will now face incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine, who had 48% of the vote against three challengers as of 10 p.m. Tuesday and with many more votes to be counted.

Whaley resides in Dayton, while DeWine lives in nearby Cedarville. And while they’re practically neighbors, Whaley made it clear that the election won’t be a neighborly affair.

She criticized DeWine’s long tenure in office and scandals that occurred on his watch, including a $61 million bribery scheme that netted an Akron electric utility a billion-dollar bailout.

“He’s not only out of touch, he’s corrupt,” Whaley said of the governor. Referring to increased electric bills that have resulted from the scandal, she said, “We’re literally paying a corruption tax because of Mike DeWine.”

Whaley also slammed the governor for promising to curb gun violence in the wake of a mass shooting here that left nine dead in 2019 and then signing a bill earlier this year that allows people to carry guns without permits.

“Nine dead in Dayton isn’t enough for Mike DeWine,” Whaley said.

Cheryl Stephens, a member of the Cuyahoga County Council, will be Whaley’s running mate as candidate for lieutenant governor.

Whaley, 46, was born in Mooresville, Ind., but attended the University of Dayton in 1994 and stayed.

Whaley is the first woman to be a major-party nominee for governor in Ohio. She highlighted the significance of that in the wake of Monday’s blockbuster report by Politico that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v Wade

“If we reelect Mike DeWine, abortion will be criminalized in Ohio, no question,” Whaley said. “This is our future if we give Mike DeWine four more years.

For an incumbent, DeWine took an unusually small portion of the vote and faced an unusually large number of Republican challengers — who fiercely attacked the governor over shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday night, Democrats suggested that the challenges make the governor vulnerable in November.

“As Mike DeWine limps across the finish line, it’s clear that he’s in real trouble come November,” Ohio Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Walters said in a statement. “Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing: Mike DeWine is the wrong choice for Ohio. Ohioans have paid too high a price for DeWine’s corruption and incompetence over the last four years, it’s time for a new direction. Ohio Democrats are ready to offer a better way forward: putting Ohio’s working families first.”  

Whaley made an appeal to Republicans who voted for candidates other than DeWine. Saying that while they might not agree on everything, a vote for her was a way to fight corruption on Capitol Square.

Whaley served as Dayton mayor Mayor from 2013 until earlier this year. She sought the gubernatorial nomination in 2018 but dropped out in favor of Richard Cordray, who lost to DeWine.

Cranley, 48, is a Cincinnati native. Like Whaley, he served as mayor from 2013 until earlier this year.

He conceded Tuesday around 9:45 p.m., saying Whaley “has great momentum going into November to win back Ohio. We need to unify as Democrats. I know Nan Whaley well and she is a very good person. She will make a great governor.”

Both candidates spent much of the campaign unloading on DeWine. There have been historic corruption scandals on his watch and the Democratic candidates have questioned his ability to stand up to the strident right wing of Donald Trump’s Republican Party.

Whaley and Cranley have both stressed so-called “kitchen table” issues and faulted Republicans with the economic decline of much of Ohio outside of the Columbus metropolitan area. 

In a debate, Whaley said things like “one good job should be enough,” and “Right now, our biggest export is our college graduates,” WVXU reported. Cranley touted the economic recovery of Cincinnati while he was mayor. Once a shrinking city, it’s now growing.

As the race wore on, the barbs got sharper. Cranley released an attack ad contrasting Cincinnati’s economic fortunes with Dayton’s, while Whaley criticized Cranley’s evolution from opposing abortion to supporting it and in a debate called him “a moderate White man,” Cleveland.com reported.

But Whaley also had what can be regarded as political Kryptonite for Ohio Democrats — the support of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who in 2018 won by almost seven points while Republicans swept other statewide offices by about four.

The Republican Primary saw much heavier turnout Tuesday than the Democratic — more than double, as of 10:20 p.m. But part of the reason for that could be more high-profile contests, including a seven-way fight for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman that has gotten much national attention.

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Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.

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