COLUMBUS — Ohioans will decide Nov. 8 whether Gov. Mike DeWine is truly “fighting and winning for Ohio,” as his campaign motto says, or not, as opponent Nan Whaley says.
DeWine, the incumbent Republican governor, points to the planned 10,000 jobs coming with Intel’s project in Ohio, along with another 2,500 new jobs from Honda and 1,800 jobs from Ford as proof he has Ohio on the right track.
“Why did they come to Ohio?” DeWine said about Intel in a speech after winning the Republican nomination in May. “Because they know what we know: There’s no better place to raise a family. There’s no better place to live. There’s no better place to start a business. There’s no better place to grow a business than right here in the State of Ohio.”
His Democratic opponent, Whaley, countered that the working people in Ohio need a boost, not just the companies. The former mayor of Dayton and former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors proposed a $15 minimum wage for Ohioans.
“I think in a lot of ways we’ve lost the reason why we work: To provide for our families and to provide a quality of life, not just to work to please some large corporation,” Whaley said in an interview with The Lima News via Zoom. “We need to make sure we have protections around workers and have opportunities. I mean, if people work hard, they should get paid well.”
DeWine’s campaign declined to be interviewed for this story, so his statements come from speeches and campaign ads released this year. Whaley spoke to The Lima News via Zoom on Oct. 25. The two didn’t debate this year, with their only joint appearance at a Cleveland Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com endorsement interview meeting Friday that’s viewable on YouTube.
DeWine appears to be the favorite in the race. The Northern Poll, released by Ohio Northern University on Oct. 18 of people surveyed Oct. 11-15, showed 60 percent of likely voters favored DeWine compared to 29 percent for Whaley, with nearly 10 percent unsure.
Baldwin Wallace University’s Ohio Pulse Poll, released Oct. 26, showed similar expectations, with 56.6 percent of respondents saying they were sure or leaning toward voting for DeWine, compared to 40 percent for Whaley.
Whaley is on a Democratic ticket with Cheryl L. Stephens. DeWine is on the Republican ticket with Jon Husted. There are also four write-in tickets in the race, Timothy Grady and Dayne Bickley; Craig Patton and Collin Cook; Renea Turner and Adina Pelletier; and Marshall Usher and Shannon Walker.
Both polls show Ohioans are worried about inflation, with 40 percent in the ONU survey and 38 percent in the BW study ranking that as their top-of-mind issue for the election. The possibility of a recession was the second-highest concern among independents, behind inflation, according to the Baldwin Wallace poll.
Whaley acknowledged inflation isn’t an issue controlled by a state’s governor. Still, she said she’d sign an executive order to stop price-gouging in the state, including capping insulin rates at $40 per month, like Kentucky has done. She also would like to suspend Ohio’s 38.5-cent per gallon gas tax for six months, using the rainy day fund to pay for road repairs during that time. She also wants to give each Ohioan a $350 “inflation rebate,” funded by federal funds.
“There’s $2.7 billion coming from the feds to the state,” Whaley said. “We’ve called on the governor to give what we call an ‘inflation rebate’ of $350 for every working family to put it directly in their pockets, so they can deal with the cost of gas and groceries.”
DeWine talks about the strides made in bringing in more good-paying jobs and upskilling people through the TechCred program. More than 40,00 tech-focused credentials have been earned at no cost through the program so far, and more than 19,000 people are involved in an apprenticeship.
“Our goal every single day was to do everything that we could so that children growing up in Ohio — no matter whether they’re in Appalachia, in the cites, in the suburbs or small villages, wherever they are, on the farms — that every Ohioan has the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential,” DeWine said in May’s post-election speech. “We work on that every single day.”
Whaley said the number of jobs could be even greater through apprenticeships, including with unions and building trades. She wants to build an apprenticeship readiness program to help fill an anticipated 22,000 openings.
“Right now, the administration’s answer is the building will happen, it will just likely happen from people from out of state who will come and do this work and then go back out of state,” Whaley said. “Frankly, I want the folks from Lima building Lima and the folks from Marietta building Marietta. That’s a way we can keep wealth and grow wealth in all communities in the state and not just in the Columbus metro.”
Abortion is the No. 2 issue on Ohioans’ minds going into the election, polls show. The candidates’ opinions are far apart on that issue, which falls on the states after the Supreme Court ruled in June that it wasn’t an issue for the federal government.
DeWine signed a ban on abortions once a heartbeat could be detected, usually around six weeks after conception. The law is on hold as the court system, and Ohio’s GOP-led legislature seems likely to clarify what’s legal and what’s not before the end of the year, likely with DeWine’s support.
“This is an administration that focuses on the most vulnerable members of our society, and that certainly includes the unborn,” DeWine said in May. “It’s something we care very, very deeply about.”
Whaley said she would fight to restore abortion access in the state. The Baldwin Wallace poll in October showed 57 percent of Ohioans believed abortion should be permitted either with limits (30.1 percent) or always (27.1 percent).
“It’s the first time in my lifetime a right has been taken away from a group of people,” she said. “In this case, it was half of America. Every single woman has lost a fundamental right to make decisions about their body, between their families and their doctors. And I think young people are appalled by this, both men and women who are young.”
Questions of leadership
Whaley said it was a “question of leadership” why DeWine didn’t follow through on promises for tougher gun laws after nine people died and 27 were injured in a shooting in Dayton in August 2019.
“I watched him do absolutely nothing to move his bill forward, even after I stood next to him at the unveiling of that bill,” Whaley said. “Then I did watch him do something. He made the problem worse. He signed stand your ground, concealed carry and arming teachers, issues that law enforcement was against. We see now they’re not helpful to making our community safe. They’re helpful to making sure that the gun lobby is OK with Mike DeWine.”
DeWine counters that he’s invested more money in policing than any administration in Ohio history. He’s focused attention on fentanyl overdoses, including sending the National Guard to borders at Arizona and Texas to try to stop the influx. He’s also suggested gun violence is part of a mental health crisis, with funding going to local communities to handle their disparate needs.
“We’ve been able to give these communities who are struggling the help they need,” DeWine said. “We committed to do this last campaign, and we started fighting on this.”