Ohio Governor John Kasich’s Final State of the State Speech

A Perspective from 3rd Rail Politics

By Scott Pullins


Ohio Governor John Kasich has to be the most angry, impatient, and rude person elected Governor of Ohio, at least in the modern, post dueling era.  But he clearly tried to paper over that record last night in what was his final State of the State address to a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly.


Ohio’s constitution requires that the Governor “shall communicate at every session, by message, to the general assembly, the condition of the state, and recommend such measures as he shall deem expedient.”  Kasich told reporters earlier this week that he had written his speech himself while eating pizza in the back of Tommy’s and that it would likely be a “little odd”.


He was right.


Kasich spent over half or more of his speech on a tour de force of name-dropping various philosophers, religious leaders, and religions.  Kasich has an uncanny and highly annoying method of excitedly describing rather mundane, commonly understood subjects in a way like he is discovering them for the first time; while at the same time being unable to stop himself from explaining them to everyone around him.  That trait was on full display last night.


The office of Governor, presiding over Ohio’s state government, and the Ohio General Assembly were mostly treated as afterthoughts for a man who is trying to find a path forward as a national figure.  


It was sad.  


The audience, made up of legislators, cabinet officials, lobbyists, and guests were uncharacteristically quiet.


There was a very brief mention of Medicaid expansion and a handful of other Ohio issues.  It seemed like he had more prepared in his speech but as the audience was unenthusiastic, he eliminated whole sections of the text and quickly moved on to the annual courage awards.  


At one point Mary Taylor, his Lt. Governor, and the candidate Kasich has endorsed as his successor, tweeted “Huh”?  Meanwhile Democrat State Representative Stephanie Howse of Cleveland tweeted that “I'm not trying to be funny, but I have absolutely no idea what @JohnKasich is talking about in the #OhioSOTS #OHSotS”


Kasich mentioned at one point that we should leave no child behind.  But there was not a single mention in the entire speech of the 12,000 kids left behind from the closure of ECOT and other online charter schools.  There wasn’t even a shout-out for his proposal to combine several education agencies into one.


He pledged to sprint towards the tape at the finish line and keep on running hard.  But there was nary a mention of an agenda or any other substantive proposal for the remaining nine months of his term.  


Kasich did make two announcements.  First, 13,000 acres of AEP reclaimed land in Muskingum and Morgan counties has been purchased by the state and the park will be named for Jesse Owens.  Kasich also announced construction of a $112 million mental health facility in Columbus.


Kasich had two, what appeared to be, down to earth, heartfelt moments.  First, he spoke of the difficulty and the long time it took for him to forgive the drunken driver who killed his parents.  


Near the end of the speech he spoke of his struggles to find a job after graduating from college and of finally finding one as a paid intern for the Ohio Senate GOP.  He told about sneaking down and seeing the Governor’s office and that now, his name was on the door.


People can change.  Even politicians past their expiration point.  One would hope that a second loss in a Presidential campaign, or fatherhood, or the looming end to his political career would humble the man.  


And perhaps it has.  But Kasich's actions over the course of his time in the Governor's office are in sharp contrast to his preaching, leaving his message of values hollow and unbelievable.