Ohio governor’s race split by pandemic, abortion, gun rights

Politics 2022/10/20 12:14   Bookmark and Share
Just three years ago, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, stood side by side, promising to push together for gun control proposals after a gunman killed nine people and wounded more than two dozen in the city’s nightclub district. It was a short-lived pledge.

Allies then, DeWine and Whaley are now facing each other in a partisan governor’s race defined by events that neither could have predicted at the time: the coronavirus pandemic and a U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

They no longer see eye-to-eye on guns either. Their gun control proposals never came about, and since the Dayton mass shooting DeWine signed legislation loosening gun restrictions — including a so-called stand your ground bill eliminating the duty to retreat before using force and another making concealed weapons permits optional for those legally allowed to carry a weapon.

“The politics got hard and Mike DeWine folded,” Whaley said this year.

Both candidates survived contested primaries to face each other in November. DeWine overcame two far-right opponents who criticized him for his aggressive decisions early in the pandemic, including a business shut-down order and a statewide mask mandate. Despite more than four decades in Ohio politics, DeWine failed to secure 50% of the primary vote.

Whaley easily defeated former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley and is now trying to regain a seat last won by Democrats 16 years ago.

Since the primary, Whaley has hammered DeWine for signing those gun bills and for his anti-abortion positions, including his 2019 signing into law of Ohio’s anti-abortion “ fetal heartbeat bills.”

But despite criticism that DeWine took from members of his own party over his approach to the coronavirus and Democratic furor over the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling, most polls show DeWine comfortably ahead. Ultimately, that still comes down to DeWine’s long years in Ohio politics, said Tom Sutton, a political science professor at Baldwin-Wallace University.

Sutton noted that a September Marist poll found that 42% of adults statewide had either never heard of Whaley — who also ran briefly for governor in 2018 — or didn’t know how to rate her. Meanwhile, DeWine has previously won statewide races for lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, attorney general and governor.
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