Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley Finally Enters Ohio Governor Race, with Legal Weed as a Platform Centerpiece

Cranley's campaign largely is framed around Cincinnati's population and civic "comeback," as he calls it, comparing the city favorably to Ohio's downswing as a whole in recent decades.

John Cranley, Cincinnati mayor and Ohio gubernatorial candidate - PHOTO: FACEBOOK.COM/MAYOR.CRANLEY
John Cranley, Cincinnati mayor and Ohio gubernatorial candidate

After months of teasing that he'd make a gubernatorial run, John Cranley is finally doing it.

Cincinnati Mayor Cranley announced early Tuesday that he's officially entering the race to become Ohio's next governor in 2022. The Democrat has alluded to a run for more than a year, so the announcement is unsurprising for those in Cincinnati's political circles.

In a video shared to his social media accounts on Aug. 10, Cranley, 47, highlights the years that Republicans have led Ohio, reminiscing about when the state led robust manufacturing and innovation operations.

"For most of the last 30 years, state government in Ohio has been a rigged system led by one party," Cranley says in a video voiceover. "In that system, Republicans get to stay in power as long as they push an agenda that favors the wealthy few. Welfare for big corporations, paid for by tax and energy hikes on you and me. And under that system, Ohio's gotten worse."

Cranley's campaign largely is framed around Cincinnati's population and civic "comeback," as he calls it, compared to Ohio's downswing as a whole in recent decades. According to the video and his campaign website, Cranley is running on a moderate platform around middle-class job creation, small-business growth, human rights, and education and infrastructure improvements, among other issues.

Key among his issues is criminal justice reform, which includes addressing wrongful convictions and finding solutions to poverty and mental illness rather than incarcerating individuals. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Cranley co-founded the Ohio Innocence Project in 2002 at the University of Cincinnati, which uses DNA to prove the innocence of wrongfully convicted individuals. 

The platform also includes legalizing recreational marijuana to fill Ohio's tax coffers. Cranley long has been an advocate for weed and recently tweeted that he supported state and national Democrats' focus on making cannabis a priority. 

"If we legalized marijuana, we could invest that tax revenue right back into our communities," Cranley said on July 15. "We could rebuild our roads and fund public education. We could expand healthcare for our communities."

Cranley is running against a growing list of opponents both Democratic and Republican. Mike DeWine, Ohio's incumbent Republican governor, has announced his plans to run for a second term, but he's been attracting attention lately due to a former aide's role in the FirstEnergy bribery scandal. A Republican, DeWine has been praised for pushing science-based protective health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, but many of his Republican partymates disavow his actions and are in favor of more personal freedoms.

Cranley also is running against Democrat Nan Whaley, who is currently the mayor of Dayton. Whaley announced her candidacy in April and shares many of Cranley's platform issues, which makes some Democrats nervous about an expensive primary battle. Whaley was in Cincinnati on Monday as part of her own campaign stop. Both Cranley and Whaley say they are friends. 

Cranley's second and final term as mayor ends this year, and the election of a new mayor for Cincinnati will take place on Nov. 2. Aftab Pureval and David Mann — the top two vote-getters from the May 4 primary — will face off for that position.

This summer, Cincinnati City Council member Liz Keating proposed a city charter amendment that, if passed, would force Cincinnati's mayor and council members to resign if they wanted to run for another salaried, elected office.

Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest on the news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles
Join the CityBeat Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.