John Kasich wasn’t born in a barn or on a farm, and he didn’t think twice about breaking the tradition of governors spending a night in the sheep barn, but he and the Ohio State Fair are made for each other.
What better place for a political performance artist of Kasich’s caliber to put his acquired people skills on display, especially now that the race for governor in Ohio next year is in its pre-phase, and his Democratic political opponent is no where in sight.
The Fair’s midway, the main corridor lined with one vendor next to another with a gondola people mover system operating above, was the path Gov. Kasich led an entourage that included his wife and two teenage daughters, cabinet members, fair officials, assorted state staff and media down, doing what any state leader would do. Enjoy the day, talk up the state.
Elected in 2010, the year Ohio Tea Party energy, anger and activists pushed candidates like John Kasich into office, the governor is three weeks into a new budget that few except him, his team and Republicans, who because they dominate the legislature could and did insert 11th hour, controversial health care reforms while downsizing the governor’s original plans including shutting down the expansion of Medicaid, think the $62 billion two-year budget, the biggest in state history, is a spending blueprint Ohio can be proud of.
Now 61 years of age, Gov. Kasich has built a large part of his political brand over the years on being a reformer of government, to make it more efficient and effective, largely through reducing so-called burdensome regulations and introducing in their place common sense treatments.
One of those reforms, something attributed to him from his day at the fair last year, is to expand green space. The idea grew on fair officials for a year, and with the announcement that the first phase of a long-term project designed to beautify the Ohio Expo Center with more shade cover as well as to reduce the environmental impact of storm water runoff from acres of pavement at the Ohio Expo Center is underway, it will grow on others for decades to come as other phases kick in.
Dubbed the Cardinal Corridor, the greening project represents a comprehensive multi-agency collaboration between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Expositions Commission. It is more than 300 feet long and includes nine trees that will each eventually grow up to 70 feet high and offer shade covers of up to 70 feet per tree, according to fair sources.
In his opening remarks, Gov. Kasich said people attending the fair shouldn’t feel like they’re walking around on a hot asphalt skillet, and that the shade the trees will offer one day will be welcomed.
Watch Gov. Kasich’s opening remarks at the Ohio State Fair Wednesday
After he performed his fair duties, which included a slide down the giant slide with his wife, who he graciously gave an advantage to, Gov. Kasich took a different kind of ride, one not found at the fair.
Gov. Kasich flew on a jet plane to Aspen, Colorado, to meet with other GOP governors and maybe campaign donors who might find him an attractive candidate to fund. A spokesman for the governor said he will be on a workforce-development initiatives panel while at the Republican Governors Association’s annual summer conference.
A Kasich spokesman, sources said, declined to discuss Kasich’s private political schedule while in Aspen, but its widely known that political events like this one offer a chance for meet-ups between a candidate or sitting official and donors.
Kasich met with Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelston at a similar event, and speculation runs high that a similar hook-up with billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, tea-party funders whose family and corporation donated nearly $90,000 to Kasich’s campaign in 2010, would not be hard to imagine.
If Gov. Kasich is wise, given the budget he signed just 27 days ago, he might want to heed the results of a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll out Wednesday, especially at it pertains to women and young people.
When Gov. Kasich signed the 3,747-page budget bill, he effectively became the bill’s last co-sponsor. Included in it are harsh provisions directed at women’s health, especially abortion services, that put Ohio among the top states where a woman’s right to decide for herself what she wants to do with her body is under attack in a big way.
By not vetoing these provisions—defunding Planned Parenthood, preventing funds from going to rape crisis centers that refer women to facilities or medical care providers who also provide abortions, preventing genetic counseling services funded by the Ohio Department of Health from referring to entities that provide abortions except for cases of medical emergency, prohibiting abortion clinics from having transfer agreements with public hospitals or with doctors affiliated with public hospitals and requiring a physician to detect a fetal heartbeat via external exams, inform women in writing of the presence of a fetal heartbeat and inform her of the statistical likelihood that her fetus could be carried to term—he runs the risk of these constituencies turning against him next year.
In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Republicans take a beating as just 23 percent of Americans under 35 said they considered themselves Republicans, compared with 50 percent who see themselves as Democrats. Importantly, just 30 percent of women of all ages call themselves Republicans.
Gov. Kasich also finds himself on the opposite side of an constitutional amendment for marriage equality that is likely to be on the ballot next fall at the same time he is. On the right side of the isle, he finds himself on the wrong side of the issue of expanding Medicaid in Ohio, an issue Tea Party activists who pushed him to victory in 2010 say have convinced them he’s not their man anymore.
Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald, who has announced his candidacy to take on Gov. Kasich, was asked if he had any plans for the Fair this year. No response to this question was returned.
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