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Ohio gubernatorial Democratic candidates face off ahead of the primaries

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
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 Ohio primaries are on May 3 and early voting is already underway. In the Democratic primary for governor, former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is going head to head with former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. In mid-April, Cranley’s campaign released an attack on Whaley. The ad, called a Tale of Two Cities, ruffled some feathers. It features Cranley touting his leadership's success in Cincinnati and Dayton's decline under Nan Whaley. Jessie Balmert from the Cincinnati Enquirer spoke with Alejandro Figueroa about her article on how the two Democratic candidates face off ahead of the primaries.

Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity)

Alejandro Figueroa: So Jessie, you wrote in the article, “As the former mayors seek to unseat Gov. Mike DeWine, the cities of Cincinnati and Dayton are on the ballot.” What did you mean by that?

Jessie Balmert: I think it's logical that everyone who is running for a job or even applying for a job talks about the previous job they had when they're running for a new one. So it makes sense for both John Cranley, the former mayor of Cincinnati, and Nan Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton, to talk about their past experience as leaders of those cities.

On John Cranley's side, he has talked on the campaign trail about Cincinnati's population comeback, like this kind of increase in population that Cincinnati saw over the past decade. And then Nan Whaley has talked very much about some of the crises that she had to handle in Dayton and how she overcame those and how the city overcame those. So both of them are talking about their experience as they seek this new job.

Figueroa: So can you explain to our listeners what has made the “Tale of Two Cities” ad that was released last week so controversial.

Balmert: Well, from John Cranley's perspective, it's just a comparison of the population growth between the two cities, or decline in the case of Dayton. I think for Nan Whaley and a number of other mayors across the state, they are saying this is an attack on Dayton and that, you know, they're used to Republicans putting down cities or, you know, having resources stripped by Republicans.

But this isn't something that Democrats should do to each other. And also, this race had been pretty cordial until this point. Both of them served on the Ohio Mayors Alliance. They worked together as mayors of Southwest Ohio cities. And so this was kind of the first shot across the bow, if you will, as far as attack ads.

Figueroa: Democratic voters will choose between Cranley and Whaley as their gubernatorial candidate next week. But whoever wins still has to face the Republican candidate. How are Republicans reacting to this in-fighting?

Balmert: I'm sure Republicans are fine with it. I mean, to a certain extent, the more that John Cranley and [Nan] Whaley go up against each other, the more money they spend in this primary. That's less money that they're going to have to spend against the eventual GOP nominee, which I think most expect will be Governor Mike DeWine. So I think there was some desire to resolve this primary earlier.

But I mean, ultimately, the Ohio Democratic Party didn't endorse in this race. So there wasn't a tremendous push to get either of these candidates out of the race. But you're also spending money. You're spending time. You're spending resources on another Democrat instead of saving that for the eventual GOP race in November.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming