Nan Whaley

Nan Whaley

Nan Whaley, a longtime fixture in Ohio Democratic politics, embarked on a 2022 campaign for Governor of Ohio to unseat incumbent Republican Mike DeWine. Whaley brought experience from the local level, having served as the mayor of Dayton, Ohio from 2013 to 2022. Her gubernatorial candidacy marked Whaley’s first attempt at statewide office in a historic bid to become Ohio’s first female governor.

Who is Nan Whaley?

Nan Whaley (Democratic Party) is an American politician from Ohio. She was born in 1976 in Indiana and moved to Ohio as a child. Whaley earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Dayton and a master’s degree in public administration from Wright State University. Before entering politics, she worked in marketing.

Whaley’s Background

Whaley’s political career began with volunteer work for the Montgomery County Democratic Party. She later became the executive director of the county party organization from 2006 to 2010. Her experience in local politics gave Whaley strong connections across the Dayton region.

Whaley Runs for Governor of Ohio

Whaley embarked on a run for Ohio governor in 2022 after serving two terms as the mayor of Dayton. She hoped to bring her brand of pragmatic progressivism to the state level. Whaley promised to improve education, invest in infrastructure, and promote healthcare access. Her campaign presented a sharp contrast with incumbent Mike DeWine’s traditional conservatism.

Whaley’s Political Career

Before becoming a statewide figure, Nan Whaley spent over a decade in local government and party leadership positions. Her tenure as mayor of Dayton formed the basis for her gubernatorial run.

Early Local Roles

Whaley’s political career began with volunteer roles in Montgomery County, Ohio politics. She served as a precinct captain in the 1990s and 2000s. Her organizing skills led to an appointment as executive director of the Montgomery County Democratic Party from 2006 to 2010.

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Mayor of Dayton

In 2010, Whaley ran for a seat on the Dayton City Commission and won. She then ran for Mayor of Dayton in 2013 and won again. As mayor, Whaley led Dayton through a period of economic recovery following the Great Recession. She worked to revitalize downtown, attract new businesses, and streamline city services.

Whaley gained national attention for her response to a 2019 mass shooting in Dayton’s entertainment district. Her steady leadership was credited with bringing the community together during an incredibly difficult time.

Statewide Presence

As Dayton mayor, Whaley developed a statewide network, serving as president of the Ohio Municipal League from 2018 to 2019. She formed connections with mayors across Ohio to discuss policy ideas. This presence set the stage for Whaley’s run for higher office.

2022 Ohio Gubernatorial Election

Republican Incumbent Mike DeWine

Whaley faced an uphill battle in the 2022 Ohio gubernatorial election against incumbent Republican Mike DeWine. DeWine was elected governor in 2018 after serving over 40 years in Ohio politics as a U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, Ohio Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor.

Whaley Wins Democratic Primary

Whaley first had to win the Democratic primary, facing off against former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley. Whaley’s experience as a mayor resonated with voters. She defeated Cranley handily, winning 65% of the primary vote compared to Cranley’s 35%.

Whaley’s Campaign Platform

Whaley ran on a platform focused on the kitchen table issues she believed were most important to Ohio voters. Her priorities included investing in education, protecting reproductive rights, raising wages, expanding healthcare access, reforming criminal justice, and promoting clean energy.

Fundraising and Endorsements

Whaley proved to be a prolific fundraiser, bringing in nearly $9 million for her campaign. Her endorsements included EMILY’s List, the AFL-CIO, and major Ohio newspapers. These resources gave Whaley the finances and credibility to run a competitive race.

General Election Matchup

In the November 8 general election, Whaley ultimately faced insurmountable odds trying to unseat the incumbent DeWine. Her campaign believed victory would require a significant level of crossover support from independent and Republican voters dissatisfied with DeWine’s leadership.

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The Campaign

Whaley Crisscrosses Ohio

Whaley logged thousands of miles criss-crossing Ohio during her gubernatorial campaign. She traveled to every corner of the state, meeting directly with voters. These events helped raise Whaley’s name recognition outside of the Dayton region.

Focus on Local Issues

On the stump, Whaley focused her message on local issues impacting communities across Ohio. She criticized DeWine for being disconnected from the needs of average citizens, pointing to his long tenure in politics.

Contrasting Governing Styles

A key strategy for Whaley was contrasting her pragmatic governing approach with DeWine’s rigid conservatism. She portrayed the race as a choice between progress and the status quo. This messaging aimed to appeal to independents seeking a change in leadership.

Ads and Messaging

Whaley’s campaign ads centered on her record as Dayton mayor, with testimonials from locals she helped. Other ads attacked DeWine on corruption scandals and his signing of a near total abortion ban. Whaley positioned herself as the candidate voters could trust.

GOTV Efforts

Whaley’s campaign made a substantial voter turnout effort in the final months. Volunteers knocked hundreds of thousands of doors across Ohio to engage infrequent Democratic voters. The goal was driving up progressive turnout in urban areas to counter DeWine’s advantage in rural counties.

Election Day

Low Turnout

In the end, Whaley was unable to generate the turnout needed to win. Total votes cast were down compared to 2018. Lower engagement from young and minority voters hurt Democrats down the ballot.

DeWine Wins Decisively

Mike DeWine cruised to re-election, defeating Whaley 62% to 37% – nearly a 25 point margin of victory. DeWine won 83 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Whaley was only able to carry a handful of urban counties.

Whaley’s Concession

Whaley conceded the race to DeWine, congratulating him on his victory. In her speech, she thanked her supporters and urged Ohio Democrats to continue fighting for their values, closing with “I love you Ohio. Our work continues.”

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Reflection on Whaley’s Candidacy

Accomplishments and Influence

Despite her decisive loss, Whaley’s candidacy still marked accomplishments for Ohio Democrats. She earned over 1.5 million votes, the most ever for a Democratic gubernatorial challenger. Whaley also helped down-ballot candidates by raising the profile of races.

Future of Ohio Democratic Party

Going forward, Whaley’s presence may help revitalize the Ohio Democratic Party. Her campaign built enthusiasm and volunteer infrastructure for future elections. Whaley has signaled interest in guiding the next generation of Ohio progressive leaders.

Whaley’s Next Steps

Whaley has not indicated if she plans to run for office again. Her options could include a Congressional bid, lobbying, non-profit work, private sector roles, or teaching. Regardless of her plans, Whaley will continue as an influential figure in Ohio liberal politics.


In 2022, Nan Whaley undertook an underdog campaign for Governor of Ohio against incumbent Republican Mike DeWine. Whaley brought her experience as Dayton mayor and pragmatic progressive approach in an effort to lead Ohio in a new direction. Despite her decisive loss on Election Day, Whaley’s presence in the race still represented accomplishments for Ohio Democrats. She built enthusiasm, turnout infrastructure, and fundraising networks that will strengthen the party going forward. Whaley concludes this campaign as a rising voice in Ohio politics who will continue impacting future elections and policy debates across the state.


What was Nan Whaley’s background before running for governor?

Nan Whaley served as the mayor of Dayton, Ohio from 2013 to 2022. Before that, she worked in the Montgomery County Democratic Party, eventually becoming executive director. Whaley also earned a chemistry degree from the University of Dayton and a Master’s in Public Administration from Wright State University.

How did Nan Whaley perform in the Democratic primary?

Whaley defeated former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley handily in the May 2022 Democratic primary, winning 65% of the vote statewide. Her strong win demonstrated her popularity with Ohio Democratic voters.

What were some of Nan Whaley’s key policy positions?

Whaley campaigned on investing more in education, protecting reproductive rights, raising the minimum wage, expanding healthcare access, reforming criminal justice, promoting clean energy, and legalizing marijuana. She positioned herself as a pragmatic progressive.

Why did Mike DeWine defeat Nan Whaley decisively?

As the Republican incumbent, DeWine enjoyed greater name recognition, fundraising, and support across rural areas. Whaley was unable to generate enough Democratic enthusiasm and crossover support to close the gap, losing by 25 points.

What influence did Nan Whaley’s campaign have on Ohio politics?

Although she lost, Whaley helped motivate Democratic voters and volunteers. Her presence raised the profile of down-ballot races. Whaley’s campaign infrastructure will continue engaging voters for future Ohio elections.

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