CLEVELAND — It's been 16 years since Ohio voters elected a Democrat as governor when Ted Strickland won in 2006, the last one to do it before him was Dick Celeste 20 years earlier when he won his second term in 1986, but the two Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls vying for the nomination in next Tuesday's primary believe this year they have a shot.
"Everywhere we go we hear the same thing frankly that people are tired of the statehouse forgetting and ignoring their families and communities and that they deserve better," said Nan Whaley. "And our message of wanting pay to go up, bills to go down and a government that finally works for all of us really resonates with Ohio voters."
Her challenger John Cranley agrees.
"The corruption is so rank that they're oblivious to it," Cranley said. "Bailing out FirstEnergy by raising our monthly energy bills. My campaign opposes that of course but also is offering a natural gas dividend of $500 per family, per year."
As Democratic mayors of nearby cities, the relationship between the two has always been cordial but as election day nears, Cranley has turned up his criticism of Whaley and how she ran Dayton, prompting a rebuke from a handful of Ohio mayors. Cranley says it's a fair comparison.
"Beating a Republican in this state is going to be hard and so we have to have a Democrat whose record is better than the status quo not worse. The fact is that my record is better than the state of Ohio's in terms of job growth, wage creation, wage increase, poverty reduction has gone down faster than in any other part of the state. Dayton's is not keeping up with Ohio," he said. "We offer the best chance for Ohio's comeback."
"Well, I would prefer my opponent not to put TV ads on that attack a whole community. Dayton is a gritty, resilient community," Whaley said. "Look I'm really proud of the race we've run, we've run a positive race on ideas. We haven't put any money behind attacks. We've pointed out policy differences."
Both hopefuls expressed optimism heading into the final days of campaigning.
"We feel really great, we traveled to all 88 counties and have received over 250 endorsements of elected officials," Whaley said. "Over 40 mayors have endorsed us and the best Senator in the country Senator Sherrod Brown has endorsed our campaign... And I'm the only non-millionaire in this race Democrat or Republican too and we really think it's time to have someone from the working class willing to fight for the working class in this state."
Cranley too said he feels confident he can turn out his voters based on his vision for the state.
"I know so much of Ohio feels that their best days are behind us but that's the way it felt in Cincinnati and I helped orchestrate a comeback for Cincinnati and I can do the same for Ohio."
Though at odds now both hopefuls tell News 5 they will support the winner in Tuesday's primary in the November election.