CLEVELAND — Despite some vocal criticism from within his own party, one of Ohio's most accomplished politicians will live to fight another day.
Gov. Mike DeWine and his running mate — Lt. Gov. Jon Husted — have won the Republican nomination in the state's gubernatorial primary, according to the Associated Press. The 75-year-old prevailed relatively comfortably over former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, farmer Joe Blystone, and former state Rep. Ron Hood, who all ran to the governor's political right.
RELATED: Election results from WKYC
"We've made some promises, and we have kept those promises," DeWine said in a victory speech shortly after analysts called the race. "Our goal every single day was ... that every Ohioan has the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential, and we work on that every single day."
First elected in 2018 after a tight race against Democratic challenger Richard Cordray, DeWine notable accomplishments in the the first year of his first term included obtaining an increase in Ohio's gas tax and signing a law that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The governor alluded to the latter tonight, one day after a leaked draft opinion indicated the U.S. Supreme Court could be preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"This is an administration that focuses on the most vulnerable members of our society, and that certainly includes the unborn," he said.
However, the DeWine administration's priorities changed forever in the March of 2020, when the first cases of COVID-19 were detected within the state. In an effort to save lives and lessen the burden on hospitals, DeWine and then-Health Director Dr. Amy Acton ordered most businesses and schools to close, and the governor later required all citizens to wear masks indoors and even issued a 10 p.m. curfew. The measures were lauded by health experts and analysts at the time, and DeWine's approval rating soared above 80% during that period.
But discontent soon began to mount from DeWine's own GOP, with those on the right accusing the governor of overstepping his authority. The dispute came to a head in March of 2021 when the Republican-controlled General Assembly overrode DeWine's veto of a bill that stripped him of much of his powers during health crises, a move that left his hands essentially tied during the omicron surge later that year.
Even with the obstacles, DeWine's approval rating in Ohio remains at a robust 60% according to a recent Morning Consult poll, and he received a major bipartisan victory this past January when Intel announced plans to build two semiconductor factories in Licking County. The governor also earned the state GOP's endorsement and placated the Republican base by signing "Stand Your Ground" legislation and later a bill allowing citizens to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
"There's real contrast between what's going on in Washington in the Biden administration and what's going on in Ohio," DeWine said in an effort to contrast himself with the current President of the United States. "I am so optimistic about the future of this state. This is our time. This is our time in history."
DeWine will face former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in the November general election. She lambasted the governor for his actions against both abortion rights and gun control, as well as the massive House Bill 6 bribery scandal that notably led to the arrest and ouster of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Some officials close to DeWine have been named in the investigation — notably his former Legislative Director Dan McCarthy — but the governor himself has neither been formally accused of any wrongdoing or charged with a crime.
Prior to arriving in the governor's office, DeWine served as a state senator, U.S. congressman, U.S. congressman, lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, and state attorney general. No Republican Governor of Ohio has lost his bid for re-election since C. William O'Neill, who was ousted by Democrat Michael DiSalle way back in 1958.