Mike DeWine said Wednesday that as governor he will appoint a cabinet-level official to concentrate on military installations across Ohio, specifically mentioning Wright-Patterson as a key reason for the new position.
“As you know, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a very complex place,” he said at a Wednesday press conference after winning the race for governor against Democrat Richard Cordray.
“It’s important that the state fully understand what’s going on at the base and how we can be helpful. It is an essential part of the economy of the state of Ohio and certainly it’s an essential part of the economy in the Miami Valley.”
With its 27,000 on-base jobs, Wright-Patterson is Ohio’s largest single site employer.
Tuesday’s result means state government will soon be led by two men with deep ties to the Miami Valley — Republicans DeWine and Jon Husted, his running mate.
DeWine lives in Cedarville and is a former Greene County prosecutor. Husted was a standout defensive back for the University of Dayton Flyers, worked for Montgomery County, held a leadership post with the Dayton Chamber of Commerce, and represented Kettering in the Ohio House.
The two men highlighted the Dayton region during the campaign: announcing the merger of their campaigns in Dayton, holding the first gubernatorial debate at the University of Dayton and closing out the general election with a rally at Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs.
“We understand what’s happening in the Miami Valley,” Husted said Wednesday. “Nobody has to explain to Mike DeWine and Jon Husted the importance of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base or explain the challenges facing Wright State or the importance of logistics…We know these things and we know the people who work on it.”
No blue wave in Ohio
DeWine and Husted led the Ohio Republican Party sweep of statewide executive offices on Tuesday. The DeWine ticket captured 50.66 percent of the vote while Democrats Cordray and Betty Sutton won 46.45 percent, according to unofficial returns. DeWine ran up the score in rural counties such as Miami, Warren, Darke, Greene and Champaign.
The much anticipated blue wave failed to wash over Ohio. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said last-minute campaigning and rallies by President Donald Trump spurred higher-than-expected rural turnout.
But Husted had a different take.
“Our values as Ohio Republicans are better aligned with where most Ohioans are than the Democrats are,” he said. “That gives us an advantage in these races.”
Ohio’s economy is also on solid ground after eight years of GOP control over state government, Husted said, citing low unemployment and a healthy state budget.
“There is no reason for people not to hire you for the next job,” he said.
Deep local connections
DeWine will be the first governor with strong Miami Valley ties since Democrat James M. Cox led the state nearly a century ago.
Jeff Hoagland, president and chief executive of the Dayton Development Coalition, said having a governor and lieutenant governor who “understand the strengths and challenges of the Dayton region from their first day in office” is a plus for the region.
“We believe their deep connections in our community, along with their history of fighting on behalf of the people who live here, will only help the work they do on behalf of the state,” he said.
Chris Kershner, executive vice president for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, has worked for both DeWine and Husted. He agrees the election could bode well for the Miami Valley.
“This will be a different kind of first meeting I’ve had with the new governor than I’ve had with other new governors in the past,” Kershner said.
DeWine and Husted’s knowledge of the area “makes our jobs as advocates for the business community and advocates for the region a heck of a lot easier,” Kershner said.
Marc Clauson, professor of history and law at Greene County’s Cedarville University, cautioned against expecting too much from a DeWine administration.
They can be counted on to promote the area, he said, but if anyone thinks politicians can control crucial corporate location decisions made by Amazon or other companies “then we have overestimated their abilities,” Clauson said. “And that’s easy to do. Because we put people in office, and we think we have to get something from them.”
But Clauson said there could be benefits from having a familiar face in the governor’s office.
“The bottom line I think there is potential to benefit this area from their tenure,” he said, adding: “How much of that actually occurs, we’ll have to wait and see.”