Julie Carr Smyth
COLUMBUS: Republican John Kasich has succeeded one-term Democrat Ted Strickland as Ohio's governor, promising a businessman's approach to policy that he hopes can restore economic security and add jobs.
Kasich, 58, took his oath of office at a 12:01 a.m. ceremony that he moved to the Statehouse and opened to the media after protests last week. Newly elected Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor administered the oath in front of more than 150 spectators.
Kasich was accompanied by his wife, Karen, and 10-year-old twin daughters, Reese and Emma. The Bible he used was given to him by a friend after his parents were killed by a drunken driver in 1987.
The former congressman, Fox News commentator, author and investment banker led a GOP sweep of statewide offices and the state Legislature in November. Strickland named one Democrat, his former running mate Yvette McGee Brown, to the Ohio Supreme Court before leaving office — but the court, too, remains in Republicans hands as Kasich takes the helm.
Kasich is ready to get going. He has already named the bulk of his Cabinet — including new budget, prisons, public safety, and economic development directors — as well as a new state watchdog to keep them all in line. Those he has already named were sworn in at the same ceremony early Monday morning.
Kasich told his Cabinet: ''If we stay a team, Ohioans of the future in another generation will thank us.''
With an estimated $8 billion deficit looming, Kasich faces a grim set of political choices to meet the state's mandate that he balance the budget.
As a new governor, he has until mid-March to propose a two-year spending blueprint that closes the gap, whether through government reductions, tax increases or spending cuts. Opposed to tax increases, he says he's going to deliver Ohioans a scheduled 4.2-percent income tax cut that Strickland delayed for two years to make ends meet. He also hopes to eliminate the estate tax.
Kasich has signaled he will look to privatization of state functions for some of the cost savings he needs to offset the loss of state revenue that tax cuts bring.
The new governor named friend and prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist Mark Kvamme as his interim development director on Friday, charging him with creating a private, nonprofit economic development board called JobsOhio. The board of CEOs, entrepreneurs and other business experts is to oversee state development decisions.
Kasich also named a private prison management executive, Gary Mohr, his corrections chief. He says he's also exploring privatizing state liquor sales and leasing the Ohio Turnpike to a private company to reduce state costs.
The ceremony took place in the chamber of the Ohio Senate, where Kasich began his political career in 1978 at age 26.
He made a brief remark after taking his oath acknowledging his return to where he started his career. ''It's pretty cool,'' he said.
The venue was picked after he faced an onslaught of criticism for scheduling the oath out of public view at his home in a Columbus suburb. After changing his plans, he declared Thursday, ''The press decided to send me a message, and message received.''
A larger ceremonial inauguration is scheduled for noon at the elegant Ohio Theatre in downtown Columbus. Kasich plans to hold his inaugural ball at the Columbus Convention Center on Monday evening.