“He’s not afraid of the tough fights.”
The opening line in the first statewide TV commercial from Gov. Mike DeWine’s re-election campaign describes someone Ohio voters don’t know.
It pictures a governor looking stern and striding resolutely with law enforcement. Heavy on campy cliché but laughably bogus. DeWine is no principled warrior who “fights and wins” for Ohioans, as the ad intones.
He’s a calculating pol who doesn’t hesitate to run from a fight (on our behalf) if it’s politically expedient for him to do so. DeWine has repeatedly shown his willingness to capitulate on battles in the public interests – from constitutional districts and women’s rights to incorruptible energy legislation – to keep his dream job. Perhaps the most glaring example of his abject surrender to self-preservation was the permitless carry bill DeWine signed into law last month.
Instead of fighting for sensible gun policy to address pervasive gun violence, the governor allowed people to carry a concealed firearm in the state without a license, without any training, without any documentation. His signature also waived a requirement that individuals packing heat inform a police officer about their concealed weapon. The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police flatly warned that the measure would put officers at heightened risk and make their jobs exponentially more difficult.
Funny, Republicans are all about backing the blue until they aren’t. DeWine caved to a powerful special interest when he should have fought to the finish for commonsense gun policy after the Dayton massacre. He shamelessly bowed to the NRA on an extreme bill that exposes police and the rest of us to unnecessary danger. He should be asked to justify his indefensible sell-out at every campaign stop this year.
By mid-June, anybody in Ohio who can lawfully own a gun can carry a concealed one in public with no background check, no application through the local sheriff’s office and no basic training or hands-on instruction on how to safely discharge a deadly weapon. What could possibly go wrong?
DeWine not afraid of the tough fights? Bunk.
The governor was scared to take on the gun lobby and his own Republican-controlled legislature ahead of the primary, so he acquiesced. At our expense. We weren’t the ones pushing en masse for permitless carry. Not on the heels of the two deadliest years for gun violence in Ohio. Just the opposite. After the worst mass shooting in Dayton, traumatized citizens – who echoed the sentiments of most Ohioans – begged DeWine to “Do something!” He stood with his wife before the grieving crowd and promised he would.
But the politician who talked big about crusading for reasonable safety measures to reduce preventable gun deaths slunk away with a watered-down gun bill that he let languish and die in a disinterested GOP majority. DeWine didn’t go down fighting for what a majority of Ohioans want in gun reform. He cowered to gun lobbyists and right-wingers. He has signed multiple bills loosening existing gun laws, including the “shoot first” or “stand your ground” bill that gave people a license to kill in perceived self-defense without any duty to retreat.
DeWine didn’t fight for his own constitutional power as chief executive when it was usurped by radical lawmakers responding to MAGA pressure during the pandemic. The governor let the best public health expert, and empathetic medical voice of reassurance for millions of Ohioans, be viciously hounded out of a job for crisis management that received national acclaim.
He didn’t fight for Ohio ratepayers forced to subsidize a corrupt utility bailout that federal prosecutors described as “likely the largest bribery and money-laundering scheme ever in the state of Ohio.” He still isn’t fighting to eradicate the culture of corruption on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (by appointing members with deep ties to the utility industry) even after his last utility-aligned chair apparently pocketed a $4.3 million utility bribe in advance of the bailout.
DeWine could have put up a fight for Ohio voters who overwhelmingly approved two constitutional amendments to end rigged elections with pre-ordained partisan results in gerrymandered districts. He sits on the Ohio Redistricting Commission tasked with adhering to the new rules in the Ohio Constitution. He could have taken a stand for us, the millions of Ohioans who spoke loud and clear about our votes counting equally in choosing representation.
But the governor knuckled under. Again. He didn’t go to bat for fairness and obedience to the law. He consistently joined the Republican majority on the commission in approving consistently unconstitutional district maps that utterly mocked the new redistricting reforms. Rules were broken, deadlines ignored, public input canceled. The Ohio Supreme Court threatened to hold DeWine and company in contempt.
This is how the Republican leader running for re-election “fights and wins for Ohio?”
DeWine’s inaugural TV commercial wants you to think the governor has your back. But the governor we know – whose first regressive act in office was to raise the gasoline tax that disproportionately impacts low and middle-income Ohioans – has plainly shown what kind of fighter he is for us on unfair redistricting, corrupt “energy” policy and loosened gun laws.
An unflinching champion of self-serving politics and party maybe. The people of this state, not so much.
Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.
This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.
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