- Laura A. Bischoff Columbus bureau
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley announced Monday that she is running for the Democratic party nomination for governor in 2018.
Whaley, a Democrat, said Republicans running state government have failed to partner with local communities.
“I think that’s what’s really holding Ohio back,” Whaley said. “I think we’re not leveraging all of our potential by the state being a partner with communities.”
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She criticized the GOP view that tax cuts will spur economic growth.
“I don’t think the answer is to completely cut the wealthiest (tax) bracket and keep on thinking that suddenly that is going to make us grow. If that’s the case, we’d be beating national job growth and we’re not doing that,” she said.
When pressed on whether she’d raise state taxes, Whaley responded: “I think everybody should pay their fair share and I don’t think that’s happening right now.”
Whaley is joining three other Democrats who have already announced they’re running: former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, and former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron.
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Whaley, 41, moved to Dayton from Indiana to attend the University of Dayton, earning a chemistry degree in 1998. She started the UD College Dems chapter and served as chair of the statewide Ohio College Democrats group.
Whaley, who lives in Five Oaks neighborhood with her husband Sam Braun, worked for the Montgomery County Democratic Party and county auditor’s office.
She met Braun, who is a finance manager in the auditor’s office, in August 2002 when they both worked on a local Congressional campaign. Braun is a numbers cruncher who plays bridge regularly. “He is the best decision I ever made,” she said.
Whaley stepped out of staff work and into elected office in 2005 when she won a seat on the Dayton City Commission. She beat A.J. Wagner for the mayor’s seat in 2013.
Whaley points to the following successes in Dayton: paid parental leave for city workers, pre-school for 4-year-olds funded by a city income tax hike, stabilized population within the city and nearly $1 billion invested in downtown Dayton.
Whaley attributed the success to working with partners across the community. Investing in young people and working with partners will lead to a stronger workforce, she said.
“Look, I love being the mayor of Dayton. It’s been the best experience of my life and I love this city. And I get really frustrated by the lack of partnership with the state,” she said. “I feel like in these times when you’re called to do more, you have to do more. We need people in Columbus that know where the rubber meets the road. I don’t know that these folks even know where the road is.”
Whaley said if elected governor, her top issues would be education, working with local governments to create jobs, and tackling the opiate addiction crisis.
Ohio leads the country in fatal drug overdoses and Montgomery County sees two deaths every day.
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“The statistics are just staggering,” Whaley said. “For us, I think we need to deal with this like a natural disaster. It is an emergency and an epidemic where we have to put resources fast and quickly on the ground. I can tell you from Dayton’s perspective, our first responders are exhausted. We saw a 15 percent increase in ambulance runs just last month.”
Whaley said nearly every Ohioan knows someone affected by the opiate addiction crisis. On a personal level, Whaley said that in 2008, a young she she babysat as a kid died of a heroin overdose at age 24. “It was really early in the crisis and I remember thinking ‘who is on heroin? Who overdoses from heroin?’”
Two weeks ago, a 30-year-old man from a family Whaley said she’s known for two decades overdosed twice in one week.
Whaley said she would stick with expanded Medicaid, which has provided hundreds of millions of dollars for drug treatment and mental health coverage, and she applauded the GOP-led Ohio House for carving out an additional $170 million to fight the opiate crisis. But she said more needs to be done, particularly for recovering addicts who are fresh out of treatment programs or jail.
Republicans hold all statewide elected offices — except for one seat on the Ohio Supreme Court and one U.S. Senate spot. By the time Kasich finishes his term next year, the GOP will have held the governor’s office for 24 of the past 28 years.
To capture the governor’s office, Whaley will have to win her party’s nomination, build her statewide profile, raise $20 million and beat the Republican opponent. Well-known and well-funded candidates on the GOP side include Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.
“I think it’s going to be a blast. I’m really excited about it. I’m terrified too, right? It’s a really big state. But, look, I love the chance to get to talk to Ohioans about how I think Ohio can be better,” she told the Dayton Daily News. “I am so honored I get to do this work. I get to get up every morning, think about how we can fight for Ohio and make our communities and our state better. There is nothing better than that.”
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