Democrat Nan Whaley goes forward with forums after DeWine refuses debates

By: - October 21, 2022 4:40 am

MOUNT VERNON, OH — JULY 4: Democratic candidate for Ohio governor Nan Whaley addresses the crowd at the Tri-County Rally for Reproductive Freedom, July 4, 2022, on the public square in Mount Vernon, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes)

Democratic Ohio governor candidate Nan Whaley sat down on Wednesday with NBC4 anchor Colleen Marshall. It was a wide-ranging and substantive interview about Whaley’s political stances and plans for office should she win the election. But it was clearly frustrating for them both because of who wasn’t there.

Gov. Mike DeWine declined the invitation to appear — not the first time he’s avoided the debate stage in his more then four decades in office. In recent weeks, the governor has even bowed out of previously scheduled interviews. He has reportedly agreed to sit down in the same room with Whaley for the editorial board.

“All candidates for office, regardless of their party,” Marshall said, “have an obligation to answer unscripted questions about their agenda, their beliefs, and their record.”

“When one candidate refuses to debate or to answer unscripted questions, we cannot allow that refusal to stop the conversation,” she concluded.

DeWine’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Whaley’s appearance.

The economy

With inflation pinching pocketbooks, the top issue on most voters’ minds this campaign season is the economy. Whaley offered three ideas to address the issue. First, she’d use American Rescue Plan dollars to fund a $350 rebate for Ohio taxpayers.

“This isn’t a liberal idea,” she insisted. “This is an idea that Florida and Indiana have done to make sure the folks that are really feeling the pinch around these rising costs have some help.”

Whaley also promised to sign an executive order prohibiting price gouging and suggested it could be a way to control the price of prescription drugs, utility bills and even cap the cost of insulin. Finally she argued for a six month gas tax holiday.

DeWine has resisted efforts from state lawmakers and the Biden administration to reduce the gas tax after negotiating an increase to help pay for roads in 2019.


Whaley’s biggest campaign issue — “the issue” as she describes it — is abortion. Like other Democrats seeking office, she wants to codify Roe v. Wade, but she’s more explicit about her expectations. She wants the changes amended into Ohio’s constitution so “no extremist” can take them away. Whaley is also clear about the extent of those rights.

“Roe has limits,” she said. “Those were the limits around viability that were the law of the land my entire life until this summer.”

Whaley cited polling which suggests the majority of Ohioans favor abortion access, and argued DeWine is “out of step” with voters on the issue. She warned DeWine has said he will “go as far as we can” on abortion restrictions. State lawmakers have already begun hearings for legislation that would prohibit abortion at conception, she added, and likely ban a number of contraceptives as well.

Whaley acknowledged the polling doesn’t look great for her right now — trailing DeWine by double digits in repeated surveys. Pushing back, Whaley noted the governor has “been on the ballot since I was 10 months old,” and suggested pollsters aren’t getting a good enough read on how abortion is playing with voters. She pointed to Kansas where a constitutional amendment eliminating any right to abortion polled as a dead heat only to get beaten by an 18-point margin.

“The polls have consistently not shown how big of an issue abortion is for voters in races because this has never happened before in my lifetime,” Whaley argued. “Never before have a group of people, which is half the population, lost a right — a fundamental right has been taken away.”

The obstructionist

Whaley touched on numerous other issues as well — universal pre-K, investing in renewable energy, and expanding transparency. But despite all those plans for a potential Whaley administration, she readily acknowledged her job in many cases will be blocking a state legislature dominated by Republicans.

“You know, I recognize once elected, I’m going to stop bad things from happening to the state,” she said. “That’s going to be the role of the governor and that’s an important job.”

Whaley raised the point explicitly in discussing firearm and LGBTQ+ policy. On guns, in particular, she criticized DeWine for refusing to veto measures to arm teachers, establish stand your ground, or allowing concealed firearm carry without a permit.

“Permitless concealed carry was not veto proof,” she argued. “There were still enough Republicans that said no to this bill, because law enforcement were against it, that he could have stopped it and he chose not to.”

Calling back to DeWine’s commitment to “do something” after a 2019 mass shooting in Dayton, she derided him for “saying what’s politically convenient at the time and doing whatever the extremists want when it matters.”

Whaley contended she won’t have to play role of emergency brake forever. Pointing to the governor’s role on the redistricting commission, and the likelihood of her win meaning downballot democrats would do well, too, she argued the legislative picture could look pretty different in two years.

Diplomatically, Marshall pointed out how “optimistic” that sounded.

“You have to be,” Whaley said with a chuckle. “We’re talking about democracy.”

Whaley is continuing with similar forums around the state — what she’s calling “The Debates Ohio Deserves.” Thursday night she visited a union hall in Dayton, and she’ll be hosting another event in Toledo on Monday.



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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.