Is Dayton, Ohio a Liberal City?

I had the opportunity to grow up in the greater Dayton area, where I was exposed to a lot of politics. Being in a swing state, Dayton is home to people with many different political affiliations. I’m here to help you figure out where Dayton aligns on the political spectrum, and decide if it would be a good fit for you and your beliefs.

Although Dayton has historically fallen on both the liberal and conservative sides of politics at different points in history, Dayton is currently a liberal leaning city. The majority of recent elections, legislation, and leaders have created a more liberal climate.

Looking at Dayton’s politicians and what they have been doing in office will help clear up what the political situation is really like today.

Political history

In Dayton, I found election season to always be full of debate and agitation since there are plenty of people backing both sides of most issues. This can lead to tension, and can also make election results unpredictable. Historically the difference between a conservative and a liberal vote has been slim, often varying by less than 10%. By looking at the past local and presidential elections from Dayton, I have found a heavy proportion of results to be for Democratic politicians, who tend to be more liberal.


Looking at presidential elections from the past six years, the Republican party has only won Dayton once, in 2016 by slim margins.

The most recent republican mayor was Mike Turner from 1993-2001, and before him, we haven’t seen a conservative in office since the 1960s.

Outside of Dayton, Ohio has a much stronger conservative influence currently with all non-judicial statewide elected officials running under a republican platform, including the Governor.


The democratic party has managed to win Dayton in five of the six past presidential elections, only aligning with the overall Ohio vote three of those years.

Dayton must be considered a liberal city when taking into account that seven out of the ten past mayors, including the current mayor, are part of the Democrat party. This also makes sense looking at the demographics of Dayton. This urban area is home to many young college students, African-Americans, minority groups and also has more female than male residents. These demographics typically are associated with a more liberal alignment.

Dayton certainly has history and proud citizens on both sides of politics, but over time, it has become more liberal. Although in-state government conservatives are currently outnumbering liberals, Dayton is firm in its position as a liberal influence.


It also needs to be noted that there is unusually strong support for independents and third parties in Dayton. Most significantly, from 2010 to 2013 Gary Leitzell served as Dayton Mayor running a completely independent platform.

The Libertarian party receives support from Ohioans, including those from Dayton. Ohio is the fourth largest state affiliate of the Libertarian Party. With the most recent presidential election in 2020, Dayton had the opportunity to host a Presidential Townhall for the Libertarian Party of Ohio.

Mayor Nan Whaley

Nan Whaley has been the beloved Mayor of Dayton since 2013. she has been most notable in her fight against the opioid epidemic and her reaction to a recent local mass shooting. Her time in office has been marked with civic involvement and public service.

True to her democratic party, she has been concerned with social equality, especially in terms of equal opportunity for the large minority groups that live in Dayton.

She is open about her support for additional gun control measures, becoming particularly outspoken after a tragic shooting in the Oregon District of Dayton. Her compassionate outreach following the shooting is what has made her a particularly endearing Mayor.


While in office, Whaley has dealt with job loss, an opioid crisis, a failing school system, and a mass shooting. Looking at the methods she chose to overcome these problems lets us look into how Dayton functions as a liberal city.

The lack of good employment in Dayton heavily stems from factory shutdowns as part of the “rust belt”. By investing millions of dollars into downtown, Dayton became habitable for new businesses that have recently begun to move in.

Being located at the crossroads of two major interstates, Dayton has had huge issues with drug use and distribution. Whaley has made it her mission to save Dayton’s lives by fighting against opioids. In combination with the City of Dayton, Nan Whaley announced a lawsuit in 2017 against major drug companies in the area, hoping to reduce drug abuse at its roots. She also increased the availability of an overdose-reversing drug to paramedics. Montgomery County did see a reduction in overdose death by more than half from 2017 to 2018 source.

Dayton public schools have struggled to stay afloat, often scoring “D”s and even “F”s. Whaley’s plan to aid the schools came through her City of Learners initiative. She helped put in place an income tax increase, promising in turn that every Dayton four-year-old will receive a year of quality, affordable pre-school.

August 4, 2019, a mass shooting took place in the Oregon District of downtown Dayton killing 9 and wounding many others. In reaction to this tragedy, Whaley first prioritized her citizens by visiting each wounded survivor in the hospital with the former president, Donald Trump. Soon after, she joined with other mayors facing shooting from all over the country in petitioning Congress to pass gun control legislation.

Interactions with Donald Trump

Donald Trump visited Dayton just after the shooting in 2019. Whaley has never been a supporter of his leadership and was apprehensive about meeting with him, concerned that his visit may serve to further wound the city. However, she agreed to greet speak with him as part of her duty as a Mayor.

Before his arrival, she promised to confront him on his inactivity regarding gun control. She asked for action but was disappointed in his vague and brief responses. Trump faced crowds of angry protesters throughout the city during his brief visit.

Relationship with the Governor

Tensions began with Governor Mark DeWine(R) soon following the 2019 shooting. DeWine attempted to address the city about the shooting but was quickly drowned out by angry citizens demanding that he take action on gun control. Nan Whaley took the podium from DeWine in order to calm the crowd.

Whaley plans to unseat DeWine as Governor during next year’s election. She has been frustrated with his legislation and lack of gun restrictions and is tired of trying to work with him.

Governor Campaign

Nan Whaley is running for Ohio Governor in 2022, stating that it is time for someone other than a white male to be in office. She will have to face John Cranley in primaries before getting the chance to unseat Mark DeWine.

As governor, she hopes to improve jobs and focus on equal opportunity regardless of income, race, or sexuality. If in office, we can expect an expansion of her pre-school initiative and opioid fight to include all of Ohio. She also hopes that a higher position will allow her more control over gun legislation.

Recent Legislation

Dayton is able to pass city-wide ordinances, but it also has influence over state legislature through the advocacy of Nan Whaley.

Oregon District Shooting

Motivated by the outrage in Dayton following the shooting, Mayor Nan Whaley made repetitive efforts to work with Governor DeWine to create gun control legislation. The support of Dayton helped expedite DeWine’s mild but still progressive package of gun reforms. This package hopes to make it easier for guns to be removed from the hands of people who may pose threats.

Dayton has repeatedly pushed for more restrictions, but the laws are often stalled or never even proposed, faced with a republican-dominated state government.

Pay-to-Stay Ordinance

Last year, Dayton passed a “Pay to Stay” ordinance to increase housing security for low-income households. the ordinance puts restrictions on late fees that landlords can impose and requires that they take back rent. More proof is now required for evictions, making receipts crucial since many low-income households do not have access to electronic payments.

This legislation was passed unanimously in an effort to decrease home insecurity. It has increased housing stability in Dayton but has also imposed a lot of restrictions on landlords. This legislation was especially timely during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when staying at home was encouraged.

COVID-19 Community Response

Overall, Dayton has been supportive and compliant with changing mask mandates and travel restrictions. I was able to visit back home in Dayton last year and I was hard pressed to find anyone without a mask in public spaces. All local businesses had signage up and extra masks available, refusing service to those who refused to comply. Speaking to my friends currently in Dayton, the majority of residents are following CDC guidelines as they continue to change.

Ohio stayed on pace with the release of vaccinations, and Dayton became one of the mass vaccination clinic sites. Additionally, Dayton created an online PPE store, ensuring access to masks, gloves, and sanitizer to its residents.

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Gracie S.

Millie here! I am a regular publisher on suggested by locals. Other than writing, I like to volunteer at the local animal shelter!

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