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Democratic candidates for Ohio governor meet for first and so far only debate before May primary

Meg Vogel
Ohio Debate Commission
John Cranley, former mayor of Cincinnati, and Nan Whaley, former mayor of Dayton, shake hands after the Ohio Gubernatorial Democratic Primary Debate at the Paul Robeson Cultural & Performing Arts Center at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Meg Vogel/Ohio Debate Commission

The on-stage meeting of former mayors featured questions about a wide variety of issues and policies.

The Democratic candidates for governor met in their first and so far, their only debate before the May 3 primary. And while the Republican gubernatorial debate was canceled, the leading candidate in that race was talked about quite a bit.

Former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley and ex-Dayton mayor Nan Whaley are friends. And while they’re competitors in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, at their debate at Central State University they were united in their view of the common enemy.

“We’re all Democrats. We share the same values. We have the same goals. This primary is about one thing: who is best to beat Mike DeWine," said Cranley.

“Mike DeWine is too weak to get this done because at the end of the day – we’ve seen this on gun violence, on redistricting, on COVID – he does what is convenient at the time politically and then when the rubber meets the road he is too weak to stand up to radicals," said Whaley. "We deserve better."

Whaley and Cranley blasted DeWine and Republicans the corruption scandal surrounding the sweeping nuclear bailout and energy law known as House Bill 6. Whaley has said she would quickly institute a plan for more transparency of donations and a public accountability commission to investigate corruption. Cranley has said he would fire the members of the Public Utilities Commission immediately after being sworn in.

And while either would face a pro-gun rights legislature if elected, they largely agreed on passing tougher gun laws, and said the permitless conceal carry law that was recently passed and signed by DeWine will make gun violence worse.

Whaley did criticize Cranley by noting he’d been anti-abortion for much of his life. Cranley said his views changed and he became pro-choice after he and his wife went through fertility treatments. Abortion was an area where Whaley got specific, saying she’d veto any bill that attacks abortion rights and appoint a pro-choice doctor as head of public health.

Though she didn’t say whether she’d support a repeal of any part of the gas tax, Whaley pointed out she’d called for capping prices on compressed natural gas last year.

“As governor, we’ll make sure that we lower costs for everyday Ohioans, like utility costs and like investing in child care," Whaley said. "What we’ve seen over the past couple years frankly across America is two million American women have opted out of working because they simply cannot pencil in child care out for their families.”

Cranley was more specific in his proposals, saying he would absolutely want a temporary reduction in the gas tax, which Republicans have supported, and said he wants to create 30,000 broadband and clean energy jobs.

“We’re going to pay for that by legalizing marijuana, taxing it and putting those taxes into those jobs. And then we’re going to put real money into people’s pockets with a dividend like they have in Alaska and North Dakota," said Cranley.

Cranley has said that $500 annual dividend for families making under $75,000, paid for by increasing the severance on oil and gas drilling.

On police reform, the candidates were asked by moderator Lucy May of WVXU about a ban on qualified immunity for law enforcement accused in shootings or other actions.

Whaley replied: “Look, I think this is way more qualified than just qualified immunity issues. I think it is more about how police officers interact with citizens. And absolutely, citizens deserve to be treated with dignity and respect any time there is an incident or anytime they are in with police officers."

"No, but I will do this," Cranley said. "I will sign an executive order that will license police officers and as the executive of the state we have the ability to license officers and we will have use of force changes. We will have body cameras on officers across the state.”

It’s unclear whether an executive order would eliminate qualified immunity.

It’s possible that the incumbent either Cranley or Whaley will face was only about five minutes away from the debate site, at his home in Cedarville. But Mike DeWine had declined the invitation to join the Republican debate for governor that had been planned for Tuesday morning, which resulted in its cancellation.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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