In the final weeks of the gubernatorial race, Ohio Governor and Republican Mike DeWine maintains an unwavering lead over his Democratic opponent and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in the polls.
DeWine seeks a second term as Ohio governor after being elected to the office in 2019. After announcing that he would re-run, he also announced that if he won, it would be his final term in politics after over 40 years of service.
Whaley has challenged DeWine this gubernatorial election cycle, championing a new and genuine face of leadership for the state of Ohio, a state that she believes is going backwards in a number of issues.
With his insurmountable political experience and involvement, DeWine has created a statewide and national name for himself, which Whaley can’t compare to, thereby giving him a slight edge in this race. Nevertheless, Whaley remains steadfast that she can win this race.
This gubernatorial election, in particular, has taken on a different look than previous ones since DeWine has refused to debate Whaley in a formal statewide setting, despite Whaley’s repeated requests. That is, until Oct. 27, when the two candidates for Ohio governor engaged in debate for the first time in an endorsement interview hosted by the editorial team at cleveland.com over zoom.
DeWine and Whaley are deeply divided on many issues facing Ohio today. At the forefront of these issues are abortion, gun reform, manufacturing, renewable energy, and more.
Presumably, the most pressing matter in Ohio’s governor race is abortion.
Whaley has denounced DeWine and his legislature for their shortcomings in restoring reproductive rights for Ohioans. Just a few hours after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in June, the state of Ohio instituted the “heartbeat” bill—a six-week abortion ban that DeWine openly said he was proud to sign.
“One of the essential functions of government is to protect the most vulnerable,” DeWine said on Oct. 27. “I think our unborn certainly come into that category.”
On the other hand, Whaley is a champion for reproductive rights and has promised throughout her campaign to “never waiver on her commitment to choice.”
Another issue that divides DeWine and Whaley significantly is gun reform—an issue they didn’t always disagree on.
DeWine’s stance on gun reform changed after his proposal for a 17-point gun reform plan was met with scrutiny from his Republican colleagues in 2019. There came a point where the governor began voting for every bill that eased gun control. As of 2022, any qualifying adult in Ohio can legally possess and conceal a handgun without a permit.
As opposed to tightening gun laws, DeWine has spent his time as Ohio governor combating crime at the local and state level, beginning by entering all open warrants into a national database to make it easier for law enforcement and patrol.
For Whaley, this is a failure on DeWine’s part for choosing not to stay headstrong on an incredibly critical issue against his political party.
“[DeWine] says what’s politically convenient at the time, and when the rubber meets the road, he’s afraid of the extremists and radicals in his party.”
If Whaley is elected as Ohio’s governor, she intends to enact common-sense gun safety laws, as she expressed in an interview.
With record-high inflation, Ohioans have shown great concern about the state of our economy and manufacturing base.
DeWine has worked to bring jobs back into Ohio by working with various prominent companies, from Honda to most notably, Intel. Intel Corporation is a leading global semiconductor manufacturer planning to build its most advanced facilities in Ohio, generating over 20,000 jobs.
The governor also highlighted the tax cuts he has made since entering office, rendering Ohio’s income taxes the lowest since the 1970s. DeWine believes that under his leadership, Ohio is on track to be the manufacturing powerhouse of the United States.
On the other hand, Whaley’s job policy, which she calls the 21st Century Jobs Plan, contains three major components: investments into Ohio businesses, clean energy & transitioning sectors, and higher wages for all Ohioans.
She also hopes to combat the inflation crisis by giving rebates to as many working Ohioans as possible using the money from the next round of federal funding Ohio is set to receive.
On another topic, Ohioans are also increasingly concerned as energy costs reach a new high and have drastic effects on working people’s lives.
In 2019, Mike DeWine signed House Bill 6, approving funding for two power plants owned by FirstEnergy, the biggest electric company with facilities in Ohio. Advertised to Ohioans as a clean-air bill, the cost of electricity rapidly increased, and fossil fuel power plants overtook renewable energy.
House Bill 6 has received and continues to receive immense backlash from Ohioans and Democrats.
In response to DeWine’s claims that Ohio is moving towards renewable energy, Whaley was disagreeable. During the Oct. 27 debate, she addressed House Bill 6, calling it “the biggest bribery scandal in Ohio history that completely rolled back renewable energy” that DeWine should have repealed long ago.
One of the first tasks on Whaley’s agenda if she is elected is to repeal House Bill 6 and place Ohio on the path to a cleaner, cheaper, and less corrupt future.
State of Education
In the aftermath of the pandemic, Ohioans have witnessed an immense blow to education across the state and the nation.
The NAEP released the nation’s report card, revealing a steep drop in mathematics and reading test scores. Each candidate was asked on Oct. 27 to share their plans on improving the state of education in Ohio if elected this November.
DeWine and Whaley emphasized the importance of accessible, high-quality early childhood education for all children across the state. DeWine highlighted his most notable achievements as governor in education, from expanding eligibility for publicly-funded childcare to signing Senate Bill 89, which relaxed strict state regulations on funding.
DeWine also took the time to shine a spotlight on Ohio’s apprenticeship programs–which he said are ranked number one in the Midwest—and Career Centers, which has allowed students to “see the relevance” in their learning.
While Whaley appreciates much of what DeWine has done to propel education in Ohio further, she believes longevity is missing:
“I think the one good thing the legislature did was their School Funding Formula. The problem was they only funded it for two years. It needs to be fully funded for six years.”
Furthermore, Whaley has campaigned for increased affordability and accessibility for college education, promising to support increases in State Share of Instruction and Ohio College Opportunity Grants for all Ohioans.
In the realm of education, too, is the controversial House Bill 616, Ohio’s version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill, introduced by the state’s GOP earlier this year.
This bill calls to ban discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in Ohio’s classrooms, which many Republican representatives have said to be an unnecessary “political activism” in our children’s education.
The current governor has yet to make a clear stance on the matters of this House bill. He has supported a portion of the bill by stating that any form of sex education being taught to elementary school students “would be crazy.”
On the other hand, Whaley, who is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, has spoken out against House Bill 616 and the Ohio GOP for failing to voice what the state of Ohio and its citizens genuinely want from their leadership.
“The state of Ohio wants to be an inclusive state that is growing and provides an opportunity for everybody no matter who you love, where you come from or what you believe,” Whaley said earlier this year.
If DeWine is re-elected as Ohio’s governor, it will be his final term serving in politics after over four decades. However, if Whaley is elected, Ohio could make history with the state’s first woman governor.
Election Day is Nov. 8.