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Politics

'We Need A Comeback': John Cranley Talks To WVXU About His Bid For Governor Of Ohio

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John Cranley Campaign
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Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley announced he's running for Ohio governor Tuesday. Cranley is finishing up his second four-year term as mayor and is term-limited out.

With his announcement, he posted a campaign video on YouTube explaining why he's running. "The future used to happen in Ohio," he says in a voiceover featuring a montage of car and steel manufacturing; as well as famous Ohioans like Toni Morrison. "But they [Republicans] gave it away and hoped we wouldn't notice."

His remedy is a plan called the "Ohio Comeback Plan," which would create 30,000 jobs to build roads, add broadband and build an energy economy, which would all pay at least $60,000 annually. He would also legalize marijuana to help fund those jobs.

"We should use the tax revenues that Michigan and Colorado and other places are getting to invest in jobs and improve education," Cranley told WVXU. He says he also supports expunging the records of anyone charged with minor, nonviolent marijuana offenses.

"I 100% support the expungement of any record in Cincinnati that resulted in marijuana possession violation under city law," he said, adding that he supports such expungements statewide as well.

Cincinnati Council voted two years ago to identify residents eligible for expungement and connect them with resources to do so. City officials haven't made much progress on that effort.

Cranley's plan for Ohio also calls for paying families an annual $500 dividend from energy profits.

And if none of that happens in his first term? "I won't run again," Cranley said in his campaign announcement.

Cranley says the campaign won't distract him from serving as Cincinnati mayor for the next five months.

"We are working hard every day to get this city back on its feet," he said. "And I will do my job to January 4, because it's the best job I've ever had."

Cranley will face Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in the Democratic primary. She announced her campaign about three months ago and was in Cincinnati Monday to announce her jobs plan. They have been friends and political allies in the past, but now they will likely have to go head-to-head in the May 2022 primary.

Ohio's current governor, Republican Mike DeWine, is also running for reelection. He's being challenged by former U.S. Representative Jim Renacci and Canal Winchester farmer Joe Blystone in the primary.

Read a full transcript of Cranley's interview with WVXU's Becca Costello below:

Costello: One of your promises in this gubernatorial campaign is to create 30,000 well-paying jobs throughout Ohio. So talk a little bit about your record on jobs and the economy here in Cincinnati.

Cranley: Well, we've seen that tremendous job growth in Cincinnati. The Milken Institute ranked Cincinnati as the biggest economy in Ohio for the first time; we were ranked by Smart Asset as the best city for college graduates in the country. And for the first time since 1950, the population is going to be up in the census. So we've made a comeback. Most cities, except for Columbus, in Ohio, are shrinking still. And people need hope. And the fact that my leadership helped Cincinnati's comeback is exactly the kind of leadership that we need in Ohio. And of course, the Republicans who have been charged for 30 years have failed. So young people are leaving the state. We just lost a congressional district. Their policies and their values have failed.

Affordable housing has been a huge issue here in Cincinnati. But of course, it's not unique to our city and Ohio's other municipalities are dealing with the same kinds of issues. Talk about what your approach to that issue would be given the experiences that you've had here locally?

Well, there are several ways to deal with this. First and foremost, we need to raise wages, people don't make enough money. So that's why we're guaranteeing 30,000 jobs that pay $60,000 a year, enough to raise a family in the middle class. Number two, we need a $15 living wage across the state. We're the only city to pass a $15 living wage for all city workers and all city contract work. I also believe we need to give property tax relief to senior citizens who have seen their values go up and not their income go up so they can stay there in their lifelong homes.

You've recently criticized Governor DeWine's health orders during the pandemic. What would you have done differently in that position?

Well, first of all, that wasn't recently that was over a year ago, or about a year ago, I guess. And [Police] Chief [Eliot] Isaac and I both criticized the overgeneralization of the orders. They need to be more strategic. Senior citizens and congregate care facilities and nursing homes are the most at risk; [and] prisons. And I think we should be more surgical in approaching COVID to minimize the impositions to people and other unintended consequences. At the same time, I do want to point out that it's critical that everybody get vaccinated and that we try to listen to public health experts. My wife has been leading an effort with the First Ladies For Health of Cincinnati on community vaccination efforts. Dena and I have personally walked the Winton Terrace neighborhood encouraging vaccination. We hope that people listening will get vaccinated if they haven't been vaccinated yet.

One of the other issues you're campaigning on is legalizing marijuana in Ohio. During your time as mayor, city officials haven't followed through on plans to expunge minor nonviolent marijuana offenses. How do you see those two issues linked, and does more need to be done at the statewide level to help folks who were caught up in the criminalization of marijuana up until it does get legalized, if that happens?

Well, first of all, I think that marijuana should be legal. And we should use the revenues, the tax revenues that Michigan and Colorado and other places are getting to invest in jobs and improve education. So let's be clear about that. Second is I definitely think that we can all agree that the war on drugs has failed, and that we need a different approach to addiction services and help for people who are dealing with addiction. But marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and prohibition has failed. It is my understanding that we have worked with Legal Aid on expungement. There's always work to be done. But I always, I 100% support the expungement of any record in Cincinnati that resulted in marijuana possession violation under city law.

Is that something that you'd look to expand to statewide, or something you feel could be addressed on a statewide level as governor?

Absolutely yes. Anyone, in my opinion, who's been convicted solely for marijuana possession should have their records expunged.

This is your final term as mayor of Cincinnati, so what are you focused on here locally for these last five months? And I think some constituents might be asking, will this campaign for governor be a distraction from your commitment to Cincinnatians?

Well, I have a reputation for many things, and hard work is definitely one of them. And I'm very proud that I've led this city of my childhood, the best job I've ever had. And we've gotten through COVID better than most cities. Our restaurants have survived. We're one of the only major cities in America to get police reform after the murder of George Floyd, where we obtained from the FOP in negotiations, arbitration reform to make it easier to discipline cops who make mistakes. So we are working hard every day to get this city back on its feet. And I will do my job to January 4, because it's the best job I've ever had.

What else do you want voters in Ohio, but in particular in this area, to know about this campaign and what you hope to accomplish?

I think it's got to be about the future and about Ohio. And most people realize that the state of presidents, of Thomas Edison, of electricity, of astronauts, had at one point the biggest middle class in America where the average Ohioan made more money than the average American. Most people realize that outside of Cincinnati and Columbus, the state is shrinking and middle class is shrinking even worse. We need a comeback and that comeback needs real specific ideas. And a job guarantee that pays $60,000 a year is a middle class life, legalizing marijuana will reform the failed war on drugs but also create new tax revenues to pay for new jobs. And three, a dividend that will directly build up the spending power of the middle class, of people who are living hand to mouth. This is a specific plan for the future from a candidate who has a track record of delivering on his on my promises, contrasted with Mike DeWine and the Republicans who have led to Ohio's decline.