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Ohio gubernatorial election: Here's what you need to know about the candidates and voting ahead of the May 3 primary

Here is a list of the candidates from both parties, plus key dates leading up to the May 3 primary.

CLEVELAND — We're less than two weeks away from Ohio's May primary election, and while much of the attention has been focused on the state's U.S. Senate race, there is also plenty of intrigue surrounding this year's gubernatorial battle.

RELATED: More political coverage from WKYC

Gov. Mike DeWine is seeking a second term in office, something each of his six immediate elected predecessors except one has achieved. Yet despite being considered the decided favorite to win, the incumbent Republican governor is facing some opposition from within his own party, some of whom were disappointed with his relatively strict response to the COVID-19 pandemic. His biggest challengers are considered to be former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and farmer Joe Blystone.

The Democrats face somewhat of an uphill climb to get back into the governor's mansion for the first time in over a decade, and are banking their hopes on a pair of former Southwest Ohio mayors: Cincinnati's John Cranley and Dayton's Nan Whaley. The former has touted his credential's as the founder of the Ohio Innocence Project, while the latter gained national attention for her leadership during the deadly 2019 mass shooting in her city.

Here is what you need to know about the race for Governor of Ohio:

Republican candidates

Democratic candidates

Highlights from March Democratic debate at Central State University

DeWine declined to debate his GOP challengers, but Cranley and Whaley both squared off in a discussion last month, with both largely blaming the current governor for the state's woes.

Here is a recap of the event from the Associated Press:

The two Democrats trying to unseat first-term Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine took turns Tuesday criticizing the governor and his party for overseeing years of corruption and decline across the state.

Meeting in their first primary debate, ex-Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley blamed DeWine for enabling the $60 million statehouse bribery scheme, failing to pass meaningful gun reforms and flip-flopping on mask mandates.

"We've had the same guys in charge at the statehouse," Whaley said. "They've gotten rich and Ohio families have fallen further and further behind."

The result, Cranley said, is that Ohioans are falling behind most Americans.

"Guess what, the average person is poorer," he said.

Ohio's unemployment rate has rebounded from the pandemic and is slightly lower than what it was two years ago, but the workforce has shrunk by about 190,000 people.

Whaley and Cranley blistered the governor at every turn throughout their hourlong debate. Whaley said DeWine was unwilling to stand up against "radicals in his party" when it came to gun reform.

Following a 2019 mass shooting that left nine dead in Dayton, Whaley and the governor pledged to work together on gun laws, but that soured after the Republican-controlled Legislature blocked their efforts. DeWine later signed a "Stand Your Ground" law and another eliminating the requirement for concealed weapons permits.

"Never in my my worst nightmare did I think that the thing he was going to do would actually make it worse," Whaley said.

Cranley said DeWine signed what is the most corrupt legislation in state history — the $1 billion of the state's nuclear plants now mired in a corruption scandal involving FirstEnergy Corp. that took down one of the state's most powerful Republicans.

Cranley promised that his first act as governor would be to fire the state's public utilities commissioners and appoint new leaders who support clean energy policy and protecting consumers.

The two Democrats, who consider each other friends and worked together as mayors, stayed away from talking about each other during the debate hosted by the nonpartisan Ohio Debate Commission.

Just once did they spar, even slightly, over abortion.

Whaley said she was the only Democratic candidate for governor who has been pro-choice her entire career while saying that Cranley only announced he was pro-choice before he entered the race.

Cranley, a Roman Catholic, has said in the past he personally opposed abortion, but he also considers himself pro-choice. He said on Tuesday that he would protect reproductive freedom and that government should have no role in reproductive issues.

Both pledged to bring new green energy jobs to Ohio, fight for social justice and protect those who have been discriminated against based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Cranley has proposed using tax revenue from legalizing recreational marijuana, now legal in 18 states, to pay for programs improving roads, water systems and broadband networks.

Whaley wants a $15 minimum wage, universal preschool and better access to child care.

Both talked about creating more opportunities for young people so they don't feel they need to move out of state to find work.

Cincinnati has seen a comeback and is growing again because the city has embraced racial justice, diversity and inclusion, Cranley said.

"These things matter to young people, to retaining young people," he said. "Too much of Ohio thinks we can't grow again. I know we can."

Whaley said the state should invest in its communities and small businesses and adopt a jobs plan for all of Ohio instead cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations.

"Folks that are running the statehouse right now are more interested in lining their pockets than helping places like Marietta and Mansfield," she said.

Voting Information

Early in-person voting and absentee voting by mail has begun in the state of Ohio. Here are some key dates to remember as you plan when you will cast your ballot:

Early in-person voting hours: For specific information on where to vote, you can check your county board of election information here.

  • April 11-15: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • April 18-22: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • April 25-29: 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
  • April 30: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Mailed absentee ballots: The deadline to request an absentee ballot is April 30 at noon. Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by May 2. If not returned by mail, absentee ballots must be received by your board of elections by 7:30 p.m. on May 3. 

Polls will be open for the May 3 Primary Election  from 6:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.

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