Democrat pick for Ohio governor really wants to make armed school staff a campaign issue

AP Photo/John Minchillo

We don’t have much polling in the Ohio governor’s race, but incumbent Mike DeWine is favored to win a second term this fall given the state’s rightward trend in recent elections and the evidence that we’re headed for a red wave come November. That means Nan Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton and the current Democratic gubernatorial candidate, is going to have to do some major outreach to voters if she hopes to pull off the upset, and she seems to have settled on at least one talking point: claiming DeWine doesn’t care about kids because he signed legislation allowing them to be protected by trained and vetted armed school staff.

Several Cincinnati teachers gathered today as Democrat Nan Whaley aimed scatological fire at Republican Governor Mike DeWine, saying in the aftermath of Dayton’s Oregon District mass shooting he made things worse.

“For Mike DeWine, safety is just a campaign talking point,” Whaley said. “He doesn’t actually give a shit about whether you or your family are safe.”

That’s an insult, but it’s not an argument. It’s also putting Whaley squarely in the camp of the teachers unions, who are broadly opposed to armed school staff, while putting her in opposition to parents, students, and staff in the dozens of school districts around Ohio that had armed staff in place until the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a case brought in part by the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety that state law required any and all staff members who were armed to undergo the more than 700 hours of training it takes to become a certified peace officer in the state.

Ohio lawmakers responded to that insane decision this year by amending state law to specifically allow districts to adopt an armed school staff policy that requires at least 24 hours of initial training for staff members who volunteer and pass a background check. Note that this program is entirely voluntary; school districts aren’t required to have armed school staff, and no staffer is required to sign up to serve as a first line of defense in case of a targeted attack against a school.

Whaley complained when DeWine signed the legislation last month as well. In fact, she used the exact same line that she trotted out during her campaign stop with Cincinnati teachers on Tuesday.

“For Mike DeWine, safety is just a campaign talking point,” she said during a news conference Monday. “He doesn’t actually give a s**t whether you or your family are safe.”

Nothing says “I care” more than carefully scripted outrage, right? And yet, what is Whaley’s proposal to increase school safety, particularly in smaller or more rural districts where school resource officers aren’t an option? Whaley says the answer is increased mental health spending, but DeWine and Ohio Republicans have also approved more than $100-million in school security upgrades and additional mental health resources. Whaley’s only response is that isn’t enough money.

Sounds to me like Whaley has a lot of complaints, but she doesn’t have much to offer in the way of solutions. In fact, on her campaign website the only mention of “school safety” that I could find involves kids wearing masks.

As we enter a new phase of the COVID-19 crisis, Nan knows how important it is that kids are safely in school, so that they can get the education they deserve and their parents can get to work. That’s why she’s leading the fight to mandate masks in schools — the proven way to keep children healthy and schools open. Gov. Mike DeWine has this power — but is more worried about politics than Ohio kids.

No volunteer armed school staff, but Whaley’s fully in favor of mask mandates for students. As I said, DeWine is favored to win re-election this fall, and with his opponent holding positions like these, it’s not hard to understand why.