TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Republican Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday won his party’s nomination for a second term in office, overcoming conservative anger of his strict pandemic policies and notable rifts with former President Donald Trump.
DeWine topped three far-right opponents, including former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, who painted the governor as a moderate not aligned with Trump. The governor relied on a huge fundraising advantage and a network of supporters built from a political career spanning more than 40 years.
DeWine will be a favorite again in November against the winner of the Democratic primary between Nan Whaley and John Cranley, two former mayors who have far less name recognition in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat governor since 2006.
Whaley, who is seeking to become the first woman in the state’s history to receive a major party’s backing for governor, has a friendship with Cranley that goes back years. They’re aligned on many issues and have promised to protect abortion rights, promote social justice and fight political corruption.
Cranley wants to legalize marijuana and use the money generated to rebuild the state’s economy. Whaley advocates for expanding access to child care and adding universal preschool.
Ohio has elected just one Democrat to be governor in the past three decades. Since then, the state has shifted to the right, especially in recent years under Trump’s hold.
The former president did not choose sides in the Republican contest for governor. Renacci, who had hoped to win his endorsement, painted DeWine as a moderate who’s out of step with Trump and governed “like a blue-state liberal.”
DeWine, who easily won the state’s top office four years ago, was careful to say he’s still a supporter of Trump’s but without fully embracing him. He also dismissed Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 election.
The governor faced a revolt in some corners of Ohio after enraging the GOP faithful with aggressive stay-at-home mandates, business shutdowns and curfews during the pandemic.
Conservatives upset with DeWine complained that his policies and actions during the pandemic ran counter to what they were hearing from Trump and GOP governors such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem.
DeWine also lost the backing of some anti-abortion and conservative groups during the primary despite his longtime record of opposing abortion and calling himself “the most pro-life governor in Ohio history.”
In his first term, DeWine signed a bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — at the time one of the most stringent restrictions in the nation. In the past year, he signed a stand your ground law and scored a major win when Intel announced it was investing $20 billion in two semiconductor factories near Columbus.