By Michael Sakal
Three Republicans are in a heated raced to unseat Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in the May 3 primary: Joe Blystone, Ron Hood, and Jim Renacci.
Two Democrats are vying for the nomination to face the eventual Republican nominee in the November General Election, former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley and former Dayton mayor Nan Whaley, who also served on the Dayton City Commission.
The candidates from both parties range in age from 46 to 75, but only one of them will emerge to manage the state of affairs in Ohio including an annual budget that now stands at just a little more than $80 billion.
Among the top issues facing the Buckeye State in the Heartland of the Rustbelt region are the need for well-paying jobs, the economy, improving public education, abortion laws, voter integrity, improving roads and infrastructure throughout its municipalities, putting a better tax structure in place to attract more businesses, and battling drug trafficking.
In Ohio’s past 50 years, there have been six Republican governors, and three Democrat governors, evidence that Ohio has mostly been a red state. DeWine defeated Democrat Richard Cordray by 2,231,917 votes (50.4 percent) to 2,067,847 (46.7 percent) to win the governor’s race in the 2018 election.
It was the largest voter turnout in Ohio for a governor’s race, according to information from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office.
During DeWine’s State of the State speech in March, his message was that he wants to “finish the work he started.”
In 1994, DeWine won election to the U.S. Senate and was won re-elected in 2000. As a senator, DeWine routinely has voted his conscience, rather than sticking exclusively to the Republican Party platform.
DeWine’s willingness and reputation of crossing party lines have resulted in strong support from Ohio voters of all backgrounds.
DeWine has led in all four of the recently-taken polls—Emerson College, Fox News and two by the Trafalgar Group, DeWine has led all of them.
It has been a contentious four years for DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, but bills involving issues that affect the state are receiving support and ultimately passage.
“Even though the legislature and I have not always agreed on everything, this legislature has been very supportive of the major initiatives we have placed in front of them,” DeWine said during his State of the State speech.
Whether DeWine will win re-election is uncertain as many of his constituents are not happy with how he handled the pandemic, including the lockdowns affecting public school, restaurants, hair salons and barber shops, and stores, causing thousands to go out of business.
Although more than 3,000 restaurants in Ohio closed due to the pandemic, DeWine received the endorsement of the Ohio Restaurant Association.
Numerous out-of-work restaurateurs were caught off guard and upset by the endorsement, but the organization stood by it.
Attendees the Donald Trump Save America rally on April 23 either loved or hated DeWine.
The governor blocked a proposed amendment to a sports-related bill that would have served as a safeguard to prevent boys from playing on girls’ sports teams.
Eliminating transgenderism, critical race theory and social emotion learning courses from public schools remains a hot-button issue in Ohio. The topics receive the strongest reaction from the crowd when former President Donald Trump brought them up at the rally in late April.
As the state is facing an onslaught of critical race theory and cancel culture being pushed in its public schools amid the growing concern of parents, DeWine would not say whether he would put an executive order in place to stop it.
Although DeWine has the most cash in his campaign coffers, he also is contending with a spirited race and constituents’ discontent.
DeWine had more than $9.2 million in his campaign account as of April 18, after he accepted $3.3 million in donations between Aug. 1, 2021 and Jan. 31, according to newly released campaign finance records from the Ohio secretary of state’s office the week of April 18.
The incumbent’s campaign received checks of $10,000 or more from 120 different donors and almost $521,000 in in-kind contributions from the Ohio Republican Party.
Not far behind DeWine in terms of fundraising is Jim Renacci, who is running for governor for the first time. He was going to stand in the 2018 Primary Election, but ran for the U.S. Senate and lost against incumbent Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Renacci, 63, a northeast Ohio businessman, bought and operated nursing homes and an auto dealership.
A native of Wadsworth, near Akron, Renacci served Ohio’s 16th Congressional District as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019. Prior to that, he served as mayor of Wadsworth.
As Renacci and his running mate, Jo Knopp, stumped at the Delaware County Fairgrounds before the Trump rally, working the line of people waiting to get inside.
Knopp, an Air Force veteran, has recently produced several movies.
Like most gubernatorial candidates, Renacci believes Ohio’s tax structure is not business friendly enough to attract businesses.
“Not only do we need to be a place where businesses want to locate, but a place where talented and skilled workers want to stay,” Renacci said.
As for boys playing on girls’ sports teams, Renacci said, “I don’t agree with that. “I would do whatever I could to stop it and this foolish woke movement.”
The Cleveland Metropolitan Schools District is moving toward removing the names off of seven of its schools because they were named after slave owners or “racially problematic,” according to school officials. Included among them are Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and John Marshall.
“America was built by good people,” Renacci said. “History is important. We learn from it. We are not going to be taken over by Big Tech and this woke movement re-writing history or telling us what history is.”
Joe Blystone, an outsider to politics, has many concerns for the current state of affairs. He said he’s finding out what an evil, divisive world politics can be.
“That’s a laundry list,” Blystone told The Epoch Times.
Blystone, 53, a farmer, cattle rancher and restaurant owner in central Ohio’s Canal Winchester, hails himself as a conservative constitutionalist running out of necessity.
He wants to improve the state’s education system, level the playing field for businesses to set up shop in Ohio, and help seniors on fixed incomes get more bang for their buck instead of getting tattered by taxes.
Blystone’s pick for lieutenant governor is Jeremiah Workman of Marion, a former IT worker and military veteran who served in the Marines.
“One of the top things we need to stand up for is our health autonomy,” Blystone said. “There are people losing their jobs over these vaccine and mask mandates, and patients being removed from the organ transplant list at Cleveland Clinic.”
“I can’t imagine people having to fight to keep their jobs over a mask mandate,” Blystone added. “The point is in history, if we don’t stand up for ourselves for what is freedom of choice, we become part of the problem.”
Blystone wants to remove the teaching of critical tace theory and transgenderism in schools.
“Schools have gone from education to indoctrination,” Blystone said. “Teachers need to get back to teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, and learning history. It’s disheartening where we’re at today. Education should be about teaching godly principals and liberties.”
Blystone said it’s time for some “tough love” in getting people back to work to prevent generational welfare.
“We also need to improve the tax structure in Ohio,” Blystone added. “We could stand to be a little tax friendlier for companies wanting to locate in Ohio.
Blystone’s campaign is under scrutiny over donations exceeding the maximum amount. He will face a full-panel hearing to further investigate and decide upon two campaign finance complaints on May 2, which falls one day before the primary election.
Blystone said he believes that the amount of money a candidate has doesn’t play a factor in putting a candidate into office.
“A lot of people say that money wins elections,” Blystone said. “I don’t think that’s always true.
“I encourage people to talk to everyone they know and show up at the polls and vote,” Blystone added. “I’m putting my faith in the Lord almighty. He’s leading this thing, and how we’re going to get to the goal line.”
Ron Hood and Candice Keller
Former State Rep. Ron Hood and his running mate, former State Rep. Candice Keller, headline themselves on their campaign website as “Forever Trumpers.”
Hood, 52, of Circleville near Chillicothe, graduated from Ohio State University and has worked as a marketing consultant.
His previous experience includes serving in the Ohio House and Senate, and the U.S. House.
Although Hood and Miller jumped into the governor’s race in February, Hood told The Epoch Times on April 26, that it was something they had seriously been exploring since Thanksgiving. A big part of their decision had to do with the pandemic.
“I was very frustrated when I saw our constitutional rights violated in an overwhelming way,” Hood said. “When the COVID stuff started, there was so much fear mongering, and I was very concerned about that.
“It was not about how Gov. Mike DeWine handled it, it was about how everyone handled it. We can’t just say we’re going to trash the constitution, but peoples’ rights were violated throughout the pandemic.
“If I were elected governor, there’d be no more shutdowns, no more lockdowns and no more mask mandates or mandatory vaccines under my administration,” Hood added.
Hood and Keller sponsored the “heartbeat bill” to outlaw abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detectable—generally at the six-week mark. They pledge to work on banning the teaching of critical race theory.
On jobs and economic development, Hood said he believes in a better tax structure to attract businesses.
John Cranley and Nan Whaley
Former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley each promote themselves as the better Democrat candidate to take on DeWine.
Whaley and Cranley, both served two terms as mayor of their respective cities beginning with their victories in 2013. Whaley became mayor following two terms on the Dayton City Commission.
As mayor, Whaley was tasked with navigating Dayton through a Ku Klux Klan rally and a mass shooting in the city’s downtown entertainment district in 2019. He also provided leadership following devastating tornadoes during the Memorial Day holiday weekend about two months before the shootings.
Cranley is a graduate of Harvard Law School who co-founded the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law and served as administrative director from 2002-06. The project has exonerated dozens of wrongly convicted people.
He touts himself as a leader who helped his city through a comeback and someone who established better inclusion policies for the black and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities.
A mass shooting happened on Cranley’s watch in 2018. The mass shootings played a role in both Cranley and Whaley’s support of stronger gun laws.
Both opposed DeWine on signing a bill that allowed concealed carry without a permit.
Both Cranley, 48, and Whaley, 46, believe abortions should be legal and support legalizing marijuana.
In the Democratic gubernatorial primary period, Whaley’s campaign accepted about $1.26 million in donations between July 28 and April 18, according to their respective campaign finance reports. That outpaced Cranley who took in a little more than $1 million between July 30 and the end of January.
Cranley, a liberal who was elected mayor in the historically conservative Ohio’s Queen City, said:
“In Cincinnati, we did things differently than Republicans in Columbus. Instead of bilking hardworking taxpayers at the expense of rich donors, we have invested in people by expanding pre-school and public transit, creating jobs in clean energy, making poverty reduction a community-wide priority, and prioritizing diversity and inclusion.
“The city worked with communities and businesses to bring back jobs and revitalization.”
This year, Cincinnati was ranked as the best economy in Ohio by the Milken Institute and the best in America for college graduates.
The Ohio Democratic Party has not endorsed either candidate.
Whaley served as mayor of Dayton for two terms, beginning in 2013, facing a myriad of disasters including one of the nation’s worst opioid problems.
Whaley was endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio and Pro-Choice Ohio.
As mayor, Nan has fought to protect the region’s drinking water from polluters. As governor, she said she will fight to protect Ohio’s environment to ensure that future generations have access to clean water, clean air, and clean jobs.
“Our natural resources helped create the prosperity our state saw in the 20th century, but often at great costs to local communities,” Whaley said.
In a statement, Whaley said, “With corruption running rampant in our state government, politicians in Columbus are too focused on political self-dealing and lining their pockets to care about the future of our state.
“Ohio is at a crossroads. We need a governor who is tough enough to stand up for what’s right and build a state where we can all thrive.”