COLUMBUS — 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.
Locally, supporters of DeWine saw him as a known commodity who has achieved some accomplishments during his tenure.
“I continued to vote for Gov. DeWine,” Nicole Smith, of Lima, said. “I feel like he did a decent job in handling the economy and the state of Ohio for the past few years.”
Sharon Bennett, of Lima, was not as enthusiastic to cast her vote for DeWine, but she felt he was still the best choice out of all the candidates.
“I’m not wild about DeWine, but I feel that he’s done a lot of the things that I did like,” she said. “So why take the chance?”
DeWine will be a favorite again in November against former Dayton mayor Nan Whaley, the winner of the Democratic primary and the first woman in the state’s history to receive a major party’s backing for governor. She promised during the campaign to protect abortion rights and wants the state to add a $15 minimum wage, universal preschool and better access to child care.
Trisha Smith, of Lima, said it was important to vote in this primary, and she expressed support for Nan Whaley bringing a woman’s perspective to the position.
“I work in a school, so I see a lot of the decisions that are made for schools through the governor, especially with all the COVID things and everything that was going on, so I think that’s an important person to vote for,” she said. “I’ve been following it, and I would like to see a woman, maybe, in that position.”
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.