Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine re-elected to second term, NBC News projects

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine re-elected to second term, NBC News projects

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has secured a second term, NBC News projects, defeating Democratic challenger Nan Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton.

DeWine, 75, is a fixture of the state’s Republican establishment whose leadership in the early days of the pandemic earned admiration from independents and Democrats. As he ran for re-election, he emphasized economic development, particularly Intel Corp.’s $20 billion commitment to build semiconductor factories in the Columbus area.

Whaley, 46, has long been seen as a rising star in Democratic politics. She led the U.S. Conference of Mayors and received national attention after leading Dayton through a tragic mass shooting in 2019. But she struggled to gain traction against DeWine, a known quantity who didn’t owe his success in GOP politics to Donald Trump and could not be easily painted as an unflinching ally of the former president.

Data consistently showed DeWine leading Whaley by wide margins. The crowd that had begun gathering here at a Columbus hotel for an Ohio GOP watch party including DeWine and Senate candidate J.D. Vance briefly erupted in cheers when the race was called moments after polls closed here in the state, though the latter’s race carries more suspense. The Senate contest is too early to call, according to NBC News.


Democrats had hoped an alleged pay-to-play scandal involving a bailout of the state’s nuclear industry would be DeWine’s undoing. But tying DeWine directly to any wrongdoing proved a challenge, and those attacks never stuck. Whaley accentuated a variety of other issues, including the economy and gun violence, before ultimately settling on abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. DeWine is staunchly anti-abortion and had signed a law outlawing the procedure after six weeks.

“We’re not asking our leaders for a lot here,” Whaley said in a 15-second ad her campaign aired in September. “We simply believe women deserve the freedom to decide what’s right for our bodies, our families and our future.”

At times, whatever questions there were about his re-election prospects centered more on Republicans still angry with his pandemic restrictions. DeWine had been among the first governors to close schools and businesses in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although his approach initially drew bipartisan praise and higher approval ratings, the GOP base grew restless with the mandates. And as DeWine reopened Ohio, Democrats accused him of caving to pro-Trump extremists.

Trump, at an election eve rally Monday for Vance and other Ohio Republicans, called DeWine to the stage. Many in the crowd showered the governor with boos.

A trio of right-wing challengers kept DeWine from winning a majority in May’s GOP primary. But his opponents never had the opportunity to directly press him on the issues in a public forum, just like Whaley never had the chance in the general election. DeWine refused all invitations to debate. The closest he came was a joint interview last month with the editorial board at The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com — held via a hard-to-follow video conference. 

“This state is moving forward,” DeWine said during the forum. “We have to keep it moving forward. I believe under my leadership we can continue to do that.”

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