OHIO VALLEY — Though the Ohio primary is months away, one of the candidates for governor visited Gallia and Meigs counties on Monday.
Nan Whaley (D), who is also the mayor of Dayton, began the morning at River Roasters Coffee in Pomeroy, followed by a stop at the Pomeroy Library and lunch at Bob Evans Restaurant in Rio Grande, before heading to Ironton. Whaley, who announced her candidacy in April, said she is currently in the middle of visiting Ohio’s 88 counties.
Whaley spoke with Ohio Valley Publishing via phone on Monday afternoon.
“I think part of this work is, it’s important to go everywhere and I want to be a governor that is for everyone, and the best way to show that is to show up early and often and so that’s what we’re trying to do,” Whaley said when asked how she planned to relate with all voters in Southeast Ohio. “That’s why we announced for governor early, that’s why we announced the 88 county ‘Ohio Deserves Better’ tour and building relationships is an important part of not only campaigning but governing, and so, really listening to people about the challenges that they’re seeing in their county, the things that are on their mind, you know, I just don’t think you can replace the conversations being had face-to-face…”
Whaley acknowledged many of those face-to-face conversations were done with masks while hearing about COVID-19 concerns from residents, in both Meigs and Gallia counties, on Monday.
“…I think there is a general frustration from folks about how they were happy with [Governor] DeWine last year…and really disappointed this year in his actions [in relation to his handling of the pandemic.]”
Beyond the “frustration” with COVID-19, Whaley said the logistics of state funding as they related to mental health services, particularly in regard to young people coming out of the pandemic, and addiction services, were also discussed by residents on Monday. She relayed finding funding for similar services in Dayton had been an issue as well.
“I think what happens in a lot of our communities across the state of Ohio is, communities that can do so, they raises their own local taxes and those communities that can’t, do without, and there’s a better way forward, and that’s about the state really investing in small communities and big communities all across the state, instead of telling everybody they’re on their own.”
One of the issues Southwest Ohio and Southeast Ohio share, is the opioid epidemic, Whaley said. She explained when she took office as mayor, “we led the country in accidental overdose deaths, and so, really having to take that challenge head on, no one was going to come and bail us out of it. We had to bring our community together, we declared a state of emergency, we were one of the first cities in the country to sue the drug companies to hold them accountable…
“…And we had to figure out a way and a model to help our people and our community that were going through such pain and struggle and I’m really proud of that work. It was tough work and it was tough to watch our community and be a part of our community going through that but we’ve became a national model on how to deal with accidental overdose that other people come to Dayton to say ‘Ok how do we deal with this’ now that other communities are dealing with it so heavily. That’s the kind of work that you do as governor. I really think being a mayor on the ground, with these tough issues in communities that are often forgotten and ignored, gives me the unique skill set to really govern the entire state and give service and support to the communities that don’t get what they need from the statehouse.”
“…There’s a better way forward if we get rid of the status quo and have real change in Columbus,” Whaley also said via Monday’s phone interview.
The only woman, so far, in the campaign, she was asked what distinguishes her from the other gubernatorial candidates. Whaley said she is “working class” and both she and her husband were public servants and “really understanding what everyday people are going through is something we live, and our families live, and our next door neighbors live…
“Just having a new vision of what we could do and a new look of leadership I think’s really important for the state too because and I’m telling you, we’ve had these folks for three decades and one party rule and it hasn’t been serving our communities very well.”
In the Ohio primary set for May 2022, at this point, seeking their party’s nomination are Whaley as well as fellow Democrat and Cincinnati Mayor, John Cranley. Announcing gubernatorial campaigns from the GOP are Incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine, as well as challengers, former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and farmer Joe Blystone.
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.