Democrats take on DeWine in gubernatorial debate

Two former mayors seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination shared the debate stage on Tuesday, talking about political corruption, energy policy, gun violence and more.

Rather than argue, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley spoke their words about incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine. Over the course of an hour of back and forth, the two portrayed DeWine as the ranking Republican in a state house completely corrupted by corporate interests, and a prostrate agent of the conservative right in its response to COVID- 19.

More often than not, the two have largely aligned on the issues, while perhaps differing on some of the finer points.

Both candidates have repeatedly invoked Bill 6 of 2019, which gutted Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, and bailed out coal and nuclear power plants owned by state utilities. ‘Ohio. FirstEnergy admitted to bribing both the former Speaker of the House (who pleaded not guilty) and the state’s top utility regulator (who denied wrongdoing and was not charged) in the framework of the bill.

John Cranley, former mayor of Cincinnati, delivers his opening statement during the Ohio Democratic primary gubernatorial debate with Nan Whaley, former mayor of Dayton. Photo by Meg Vogel/Ohio Debate Commission.

Cranley called for investing in renewable energy and providing $500 “energy dividends” to families earning less than $70,000. To pay for it, he would raise the severance tax, which is paid by companies that extract coal, gas and other minerals. Additionally, Cranley reiterated a scorched earth proposition.

“Fire the utility commissioners,” he said, referring to the five who sit on Ohio’s Utilities Commission and set gas and electric costs.

Whaley, echoing prosecutors who have called the episode the biggest corruption scandal in state history, touted his more analytical approach. He calls for the creation of a public accountability commission, increased funding for preexisting ethics agencies, and working with the legislature to stamp out anonymous political spending.

On gun violence, the two took after DeWine for signing a “hold your ground” law, which removes the requirement to seek retreat before responding to an attack with deadly force, and a law on wearing without permit, removing training, licensing and background check requirements to carry a concealed weapon.

Cranley said gun violence is a public health epidemic. While mass shootings tend to attract more attention, more frequent suicides and small-scale acts are the biggest problem. He called for universal background checks and “red flag laws” – allowing seized judges to temporarily seize guns from people in mental health crisis. He called DeWine’s votes on both bills a “stain on his soul.”

Whaley also called for universal background checks. As mayor of Dayton after a mass shooting in 2019, she saw a crowd shout DeWine telling her to “do something.”

“Never in my worst nightmare did I think what he was going to do was make it worse,” she said.

Nan Whaley, former mayor of Dayton, delivers her opening statement during the Ohio Democratic primary gubernatorial debate with former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley. Photo by Meg Vogel/Ohio Debate Commission.

Abortion, a central issue for the Democrats, has shed light between the candidates. Both candidates described themselves as pro-choice. If elected, either would likely serve in a Republican-controlled legislature that has slowly marched over the past decade toward eliminating the process.

Whaley characterized Cranley as recently taking a pro-choice stance for the primary.

“It’s too important when [Roe v. Wade] is about to fall for having someone in the governor’s seat who just decided a few months before he announced as governor that he was pro-choice,” she said.

Cranley said he was raised Catholic and acknowledged he “started in a different place” on the issue. He said a ‘personal and private fertility decision’ with his family had spurred change and pledged to veto any legislation that would undermine women’s right to access an abortion.

Both candidates managed to avoid directly revealing their positions on vaccine mandates.

On police reform, Whaley touted Dayton’s “alternative response model” that makes mental health providers available for 911 calls, as opposed to knee-jerk police dispatch. She did not respond directly when asked if Ohio should abolish qualified immunity, a legal doctrine used to protect officers accused of using excessive force in the performance of their duties. .

Cranley said he would not remove qualified immunity. However, he emphasized equipping officers with body cameras that activate automatically and implementing “community-oriented” policing.

Both candidates affirmed their support for LGBTQ proposals such as banning conversion therapy and banning housing and employment discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

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