Gov. Mike DeWine wore a protective mask made by his wife at a coronavirus briefing this month. His handling of the pandemic has led to a surge in his approval ratings.Credit…Doral Chenoweth/The Columbus Dispatch, via Associated Press
COURTESY BY: https://www.nytimes.com/
For 40 years, Mike DeWine rose steadily if blandly up the ladder of Ohio politics, finally landing his dream job as governor. He took office last year as a familiar figure in the state, not because of any indelible political identify, but because, at 72, he had been around forever.
Mr. DeWine’s decisiveness — closing schools before any governor in the country, postponing the state’s March 17 primary election to protect voters — sent his popularity soaring. The folksy governor, previously best known for an annual ice cream social at his rural home, became something of a cult figure on social media. Ohioans tuned into his five-day-a-week briefings to celebrate “Wine With DeWine,” a ritual whose motto is “It’s 2 o’clock somewhere.”
Now, Mr. DeWine is charting a way out of the shutdown, taking cautious steps while facing pressure from business leaders, conservative activists and some Republican lawmakers who vociferously question the economic costs of a state in quarantine.
Seven weeks into the crisis, Mr. DeWine is being guided by health experts while avoiding partisan fissures over stay-at-home orders that have been encouraged by Mr. Trump, who hopes a rebounding economy will carry him to re-election. The Ohio governor is the rare Republican official who does not automatically fall in step with Mr. Trump, an independence he shares with two other Republican governors, Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, both of whom lead solidly Democratic states where bipartisanship is needed to survive. Unlike them, Mr. DeWine has gone his own way in a red-hued state.
He also split decidedly with Mr. Trump by encouraging a nearly all-mail primary election on Tuesday. While the president has spread the false claim that voting by mail entails “a lot” of fraud, Mr. DeWine pushed universal absentee ballots for voters’ safety. Ohio’s secretary of state on Monday called the effort a success, with nearly 1.5 million mail ballots cast.
Mr. DeWine also relaxed stay-at-home orders on Monday, announcing that some nonessential businesses could begin to reopen, even as he imposed new restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Beginning May 4, the governor said, manufacturers, offices and construction businesses can reopen, followed on May 12 by retail stores and service businesses. Masks will be required indoors in workplaces as well as six feet of separation. “No mask, no work, no service, no exceptions,” Mr. DeWine said.
Some enterprises that are not on the list to reopen: hair salons and restaurants. “People want to get a haircut, people want to go back to restaurants,” the governor said. “All those things we’re anxious to do as well, but we’ve got to see how we’re going with these numbers. We’ve got to watch it for a few weeks.”