Voters this year won’t see a debate between Republican incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine and Democratic challenger and former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in the race for Ohio governor before Election Day on Nov. 8.
So the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Journal-News took your questions to them. We asked our readers to weigh in on their biggest concerns in an online survey, and sent questions on those subjects to the DeWine and Whaley campaigns.
For about 40% of respondents, the top issues for the coming four years are abortion and the cost of living. Following that, close to one-fourth of respondents — we got more than 300 replies — named guns and crime. Finally, about one in five is most concerned about education, taxation or corruption.
Respondents came mostly Montgomery, Greene , Warren, Clark and Butler counties. Self-identified Republicans made up 30.4% of respondents, while 28.6% said they were Democrats and 27.1% independents. The rest did not specify a political preference.
Some people suggested questions of their own, which helped us flesh out seven specific questions that we sent to each campaign.
“What will you do to ensure that rape and incest victims can get an abortion if they choose to?” asked a Democratic reader from Springboro. That and others combined as our first question.
Question 1: What further changes would you support to Ohio’s abortion laws? In your opinion, what should be the gestational-age limits on abortion? Should there be exceptions for rape, incest and life or health of the parent? Should abortion providers or patients be penalized for abortions, either here or performed out of state, through medication or surgical procedure?
Voters want women to be able to make their own healthcare decisions, Whaley said.
“I support the protections afforded by the precedents set in Roe. That’s why, as governor, I’d support and help pass a ballot initiative to codify those protections into the Ohio Constitution so that women never have to worry about losing a right again,” Whaley said.
DeWine, who has signed several bills restricting abortion, left the initiative to others.
“As a longtime pro-life advocate, I am in favor of saving the lives of as many unborn children as I can; I also recognize Ohio is a state that allows for a public vote via referendum or constitutional amendment, and I will work with the legislators on finding a sustainable policy,” he said.
Cost of living
“What steps will you take to reverse the inflation the country has experienced in the last two years?” asked Dave, a Republican from Huber Heights. That and similar questions from voters in Monroe, Beavercreek and Xenia formed our next question.
Question 2: What would you want your administration, or Ohio government as a whole, to do in addressing the cost of living and inflation for middle- and low-income residents?
DeWine blamed inflation on “reckless spending in Washington,” but said his administration has cut taxes by $3.6 billion while balancing the budget.
“Ohio employers and families are experiencing the lowest tax rate in more than 40 years, putting more money back in the pockets of hardworking Ohioans,” he said.
DeWine said he and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted are working to provide good jobs here through career education and training, and attracting major manufacturers.
Whaley said DeWine is “more interested in taking care of his special interest donors and friends” than in dealing with inflation.
“When I’m governor, Ohio’s families will be my top priority. That’s why I’ve proposed an inflation rebate for middle-class Ohioans, banning price gouging, fining drug companies that unfairly raise prices and capping the cost of insulin at $30 a month,” she said. In June, Whaley proposed using the next round of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to send one-time $350 “inflation rebate” checks to about 90% of adult Ohioans.
Guns were on many people’s minds, including Kathleen of Miami Twp., a Democrat. “What will you do to protect our children against misuse of guns?” she asked. That fed into our specific question.
Question 3: What further changes would you support or oppose regarding Ohio’s gun laws regarding acquisition, possession, carrying or use, and what would you do to promote or prevent those changes?
Following the August 2019 Oregon District mass shooting in Dayton, DeWine pledged to work toward improved safety, Whaley said.
“But since then he’s done the opposite, caving to the extremes in his party and his gun lobby donors by signing legislation like permitless concealed carry, stand your ground, and the arming of teachers with very little training. Law enforcement was against these bills, but DeWine didn’t care,” she said.
“As governor, I’ll work to repeal these dangerous laws and will implement common-sense legislation that the vast majority of Ohioans support, like universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders.”
DeWine said he wants stronger laws against violent offenders who can’t legally own guns, but are caught with them anyway.
“We know that it is a small group of dangerous offenders who commit the majority of violent crimes,” he said. “If we can remove them from our streets, the violent crime in our neighborhoods will be reduced dramatically, citizens and families will be safer, and lives will be saved.”
The state has put $274 million into law enforcement recently, DeWine said, touting a dramatic increase in the number of warrants and protection orders entered into state and federal databases. This year Ohio put $10.5 million into increasing its ballistic testing units from seven to 16, helping police link firearm evidence at different crime scenes and identify wanted criminals, he said.
“What will you do to reduce crime in our cities, suburbs and rural areas?” asked Tom from Dayton, a political independent. That and other responses formed our next question.
Question 4: What would you do to address crime rates in Ohio, both urban and rural? What is your stance on alternatives to incarceration and attempts to reduce jail populations?
DeWine reiterated the $274 million investment in law enforcement and effort to improve warrant recording and service.
“Additionally, to protect Ohio communities, we also need to keep our law enforcement agencies fully staffed, which is why we opened the Office of Law Enforcement Recruiting within the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services,” he said. “Further, we recognize the inherent link between mental health, addiction and incarceration, which is why we are expanding the partnership between the Ohio’s Mental Health and Addiction services and the Bureau of Corrections to increase access to treatment within Ohio’s correctional facilities, including counseling, peer support, and medication.”
DeWine also noted creation of an expedited pardon project with Ohio law schools, helping rehabilitated former prisoners bypass the waitlist for consideration.
Whaley referred back to guns — specifically illegal possession, but taking a different tack than DeWine.
“We’re not talking about responsible gun owners here, we’re talking about people who should never have a gun in the first place,” she said. “If we passed universal background checks we would significantly change violent crime in our communities.
“Last year in Dayton we had a 38% drop in violent crime and it was because our police officers took over a thousand illegal guns off the streets.”
Whaley said she would focus the prison system on rehabilitation, safety for employees and inmates, and helping former prisoners reenter society.
“What is the plan to improve Ohio’s education ranking...relative to other states to prepare children for a productive life?” asked an Enon Republican. Similarly, a reader from Englewood who didn’t give a name or political affiliation asked: “How will you help to fund and support the public education system?”
Question 5: What would you do to support and promote education at all levels? What changes would you want to make to Ohio’s educational system, and what policies would you oppose?
“Years of Republican cuts to education spending has left us with a situation where local communities have to raise taxes to pay for better schools,” Whaley said. “It’s the responsibility of the state to provide a quality public education in all communities regardless of their income. As governor, I’d make that a priority.”
The school funding plan legislators passed this year was a good start, but needs to be fully funded, she said. Whaley also opposes “privatization of our education” via charter schools and vouchers.
DeWine mentioned a frequent talking point: 40% of Ohio’s publicly funded childcare providers were rated for quality when he took office, but all of them were within the ensuing 18 months.
In contrast to Whaley, he pointed with pride to expansion of charter school eligibility through EdChoice scholarships.
DeWine lauded his wife Fran’s participation in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. That sends a free book each month to every enrolled child from birth to age 5.
“When the program started, only 13% of eligible Ohio kids were enrolled,” he said. “Today, 49% of Ohio children are enrolled and over 8.9 million books have been mailed to them.”
Taxes didn’t match inflation as a concern for voters, but was still high on the list.
Question 6: What tax policies would you support? Where should rates be cut or raised? What taxes should be eliminated or new taxes instituted?
DeWine again referred to historically low tax rates and personal income tax cuts, as he did for cost of living.
“We have also increased the cap on the Historic Tax Credit, enabling more of our towns, cities, and villages to revitalize their Main Streets,” he said.
DeWine noted Ohio’s bond rating notched up to its highest point since 1979, potentially saving millions of tax dollars in interest on state borrowing for projects.
He said he’ll continue cutting “burdensome, complex regulations” on small businesses.
Whaley focused her answer on relative tax rates.
“A working family of four shouldn’t have to pay a higher share in taxes than major corporations that take tax credits and make millions of dollars but pay less,” she said.
“Let’s be clear what Governor DeWine and his allies have done: they’ve cut taxes for the incredibly wealthy people in our state and then have passed on the costs to everyday working folks who are seeing increases in their property bills to pay for basic services.”
“How would you propose to rid our state of crooked politicians who enrich themselves, while in office, rather than working for the people they are supposed to represent?” asked Jennifer of Washington Twp., who didn’t give a political affiliation. We asked much the same.
Question 7: What would you do, or what more should the state do, to fight institutional corruption, both public and private?
Whaley said rooting out corruption will be a top priority for her as governor.
“That’s why the first plan I introduced after announcing my candidacy was a plan to restore ethics to our state government,” she said. That includes creating a public accountability commission so politicians don’t police themselves; requiring public employees to sign an ethics pledge against simultaneously serving a special interest; and increasing transparency on money in politics.
DeWine said ethical public and private institutions are essential for improving Ohio.
“As attorney general, I worked diligently to root out corruption in both the public and private sectors. I continued these efforts as governor,” he said. “For example, I took action to remove the Sandusky County prosecutor after he pled guilty to negligent assault in a sexual misconduct case involving his own employees. I took swift action because citizens should have the utmost confidence in their prosecutor.”
DeWine called for prosecutor Timothy Braun’s ouster in 2019. Braun resigned following a plea deal in 2020, and subsequently settled a civil suit brought by four women.
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