The voters have spoken; What’s next for DeWine, Whaley

Now that Gov. Mike DeWine has secured a second four-year term by a wide margin, what will that look like for Ohioans? And what’s in the cards for his Democratic opponent, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley?

Some of the future will take shape in the General Assembly over the next few weeks, but more will emerge as DeWine prepares the state budget in the coming spring, according to DeWine Press Secretary Dan Tierney.

“Certainly he’s going to be meeting with his legislative team as the lame duck session ramps up,” Tierney said.

Legislators are expected to reconvene next week. Newly elected lawmakers will take their seats for the 135th General Assembly in early January.

DeWine’s campaign focused largely on economics, highlighting his role in bringing big projects to Ohio such as Intel’s computer chip factories, a $20 billion initial investment expected to create thousands of jobs.

In his victory speech DeWine named several general priorities: attracting business, early childhood care and education, improved career paths for high school graduates, and more mental health services.

“A lot of the things he’s been talking about can be done in a budget,” Tierney said.

That includes some priorities in DeWine’s Bold Beginning initiative, aimed at young families.

In October, DeWine said in his upcoming budget he wants to expand eligibility for publicly funded childcare to at least 150% of the federal poverty line. That would be a ceiling of $34,545 for a three-person household. During his first term that eligibility rose from 130% of the poverty line to 142%.

As part of aiding young parents, DeWine wants to remove the sales tax on diapers, infant car seats and other essential items, Tierney said.

Guns, mental health

In the wake of the August 2019 mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District, DeWine proposed a modest package of gun-control measures dubbed “Strong Ohio.” But those went nowhere in the General Assembly, and since then he has instead signed several bills loosening gun laws.

In August state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, reintroduced many of the “Strong Ohio” proposals as Senate Bill 357. Both DeWine and Whaley indicated support for the bill, but it faces a steep climb to pass before the end of the lame-duck session. If it doesn’t get through both chambers by the end of the year, it would have to be re-filed in the next session.

Another legislative priority for the remainder of the year is a bill increasing penalties for repeat violent offenders caught with guns, Tierney said. DeWine has blamed those criminals for much of the state’s violent gun crime, without citing evidence.

State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, is the sponsor of House Bill 383, which would increase penalties on felons barred from owning firearms who are caught with guns again. The bill would bump up felony charges for gun possession by a level, meaning stiffer sentences too.

Koehler introduced the bill in August 2021. It has had three hearings in the House Government Oversight Committee, most recently in May.

DeWine said in October that he wants to improve mental healthcare, and plans to present legislation to encourage research in Ohio on mental health. He also wants to start paying new mental healthcare workers for their training periods, which are now unpaid; offer scholarships and otherwise incentivize people to go into the field.

Unofficial results with all the state’s 8,933 precincts reporting showed DeWine beating Whaley by a 26-point margin with 2.5 million votes to 1.5 million. That included Montgomery County, where DeWine outpaced Whaley by 20 points.

About half of the state’s 8 million registered voters cast ballots, a high turnout for a midterm election.

What’s next for Whaley

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Whaley’s campaign communications director Courtney Rice didn’t answer specifics on Whaley’s plans but indicated she will remain active.

“Nan’s going to get back to work fighting for the future of our state,” Rice said. “She still believes that the people of Ohio deserve better than what they’re getting and will continue that fight so that everyone in our state has the opportunity to succeed, no matter where in the state they live.”

On election night, Whaley told supporters in Dayton to keep working on tighter gun laws, a higher minimum wage, universal pre-kindergarten education and economic policy “that works for everyone.”

She particularly urged them to fight for legal abortion. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” banning most abortions has gone into effect, then been blocked again; but its brief enforcement closed most of the state’s abortion clinics.

“We already know what’s coming our way, a complete abortion ban,” Whaley said Tuesday. “A ban that would prosecute doctors, subpoena medical records and kill women.”

She called for a statewide ballot initiative to codify abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution.

In May, Democratic legislators announced they would seek a state constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights. They didn’t expect to get it through the Republican-dominated General Assembly, but said the effort would be a springboard toward seeking a statewide referendum.

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