Democrat Nan Whaley said she will not run for re-election to a third term as Dayton mayor this year, which raises the possibility that she’ll seek statewide office or run for Congress.
“It’s been a great eight years and I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot, but it’s time for someone else to take my place,” said Whaley in an exclusive interview with the Dayton Daily News.
She declined to say what her next move will be.
“I’m figuring that out. I know we’ll talk about that soon, too, but today I’m just excited to look back on the past eight years,” Whaley said. “It’s been the great honor of my life and the greatest job I’ve ever had. But it’s time to move on.”
The incoming Biden administration has not offered Whaley a job, but she hasn’t ruled out running for governor or for the Congressional seat held by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Turner. “I don’t know. Hopefully we can make these decisions quickly in the coming months.”
University of Cincinnati political scientist David Niven said Democrats are out of established statewide names so 2022 is an opportunity for the next generation to step up.
“Nan Whaley is in a very strong position to claim the Democratic nomination for governor or U.S. Senate. Of course, given the Democratic Party’s recent record in Ohio, that’s a bit like saying she’s in a strong position to claim the captaincy of the Titanic,” he said. He added that Whaley lacks statewide name identification and would face the challenge of reclaiming working-class voters Democrats used to depend upon.
First elected to the Dayton City Commission in 2005, Whaley won the mayor’s race in 2013 and re-election in 2017. Her current term runs to January 2022.
Whaley already expressed her ambition to be governor. In May 2017 she jumped into the Democratic primary for governor but dropped out in January 2018 and backed Richard Cordray, who then lost to Republican Mike DeWine.
As mayor, Whaley has worked with DeWine to push for tornado recovery, public health protections and gun law reforms.
“The governor had his strong moments, particularly last March and April handling the pandemic then. But I think time and time again what we’ve seen is he’s been trapped by his party’s extreme politics. So he lets (former Ohio Health Department director) Amy Acton get chased out of town. He hasn’t done anything substantial on gun safety. We continue to see the House Bill 6 corruption go unaddressed. So, again, there is this disconnect between what happens in Columbus and what goes on the streets of Ohio.”
Whaley counts working on the opioid crisis, adopting a pre-school program, passing a parental leave program for city employees, renovating the Arcade and managing multiple high-profile tragedies — the Memorial Day tornadoes and the mass shooting in 2019 — among her biggest accomplishments and challenges.
Whaley is a four-time delegate to the Democratic National Convention, an officer in the U.S. Conference of Mayors and co-founder of the Ohio Mayors Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of mayors in the state’s 30 largest cities.
Whaley holds a Bachelor’s in chemistry from University of Dayton and a Master’s of public administration from Wright State University. She and her husband, Sam Braun, are long-time residents of Dayton’s Five Oaks neighborhood.
Family: Married to Sam Braun
Education: Bachelor‘s in chemistry, University of Dayton, 1998; Master’s in public administration, Wright State University, 2009.
Political experience: Dayton City Commission, 2005-2013; Dayton Mayor, 2014-current