Wadsworth retiree Dick Thompson appreciates Gov. John Kasich bringing his State of the State speech to his county today.
“I think he should go around the state — give other people the chance to hear what he has to say,” said Thompson, who was among the 50 people who scored a ticket to Kasich’s speech, which will be at 7 p.m. in Medina High School’s 1,133-seat Performing Arts Center.
Kasich will give his annual address before a joint session of the legislature. The tickets for the public were awarded through a random drawing. The remainder of the spots will go to legislators, Cabinet members, Medina County elected officials, the media and volunteers.
The Beacon Journal spoke with several of the people who are attending the State of the State to ask what topics they are hoping Kasich covers and their thoughts on the governor, who is seeking his second term this year.
Thompson, a Republican whose wife, Pauline, will attend the speech with him, is hoping Kasich will talk about education, jobs and fracking. Asked if he’s a fan of Kasich’s, Thompson said he thinks the governor is “average.”
“I’m not overly crazy about him,” he said. “I guess I’m not really up-to-date on exactly what he’s doing. Maybe seeing him in person will convince me he’s going in the right direction.”
John Cunningham, the Union County administrator, said he wants to hear more about Kasich’s economic development efforts.
Cunningham said he recently attended a groundbreaking for a new company in his county that was helped by Kasich’s JobsOhio program.
“I’m interested in his direction on education and health care — the Medicaid expansion,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham, a Republican who lives in Marietta, said he admires Kasich for taking the steps he did to bring the Medicaid expansion to low-income residents in Ohio, a move that has been divisive in the state GOP. Kasich went through the State Controlling Board, rather than the legislature, to allow $2.56 billion in federal money to be spent on the expansion of Medicaid as allowed under President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.
“We were leaving hundreds of millions on the table,” Cunningham said. “It took strength of character to make that decision.”
Cunningham said the only problem with going to the speech is that he has several friends, neighbors and co-workers who want his second ticket. Those in the drawing could request either one or two tickets.
“I have to do my own little lottery,” he said, laughing.
Mentor Superintendent Matt Miller wants to hear firsthand what Kasich has planned for primary and secondary education.
“That’s what’s important to me, professionally and personally,” said Miller, who has been the superintendent in Mentor for two years.
Mentor passed a renewal levy last May and is projecting a deficit in the 2016-17 school year.
Miller, an independent who hasn’t decided whom he’ll support in the governor’s race, plans to bring another administrator or a school board member with him to the speech. He said he’d give Kasich mixed reviews for what he’s done on education so far.
“On some things, I think he was spot-on,” he said. “Other things I wish he would have done differently.”
Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell is among the local elected officials who were invited to hear Kasich speak and weren’t required to enter the lottery for a ticket.
Hanwell, who has been heavily involved in planning the numerous local events that will take place on the day of the speech, said he’s been asked what he’d like to hear Kasich talk about and isn’t quite sure.
“I’m pretty open-minded,” he said. “I’ve not thought much about it. I’m just interested to hear what his plans are.”
Hanwell has acted as the media liaison and served on a committee of Medina County officials who have helped coordinate a myriad of visits, tours and other events to showcase local businesses and agencies. The events include tours of Inflatable Images in Brunswick, Owens Corning in Medina and Soprema in Wadsworth; a welcome lunch for legislators provided by the Westfield Group; private receptions for legislators hosted by Westfield Bank and Heritage Ohio; and a walking tour of the Medina Square led by Main Street Medina Executive Director Matt Wiederhold.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Medina to provide as much exposure as we can,” Hanwell said.
Hanwell said hosting the State of the State and the other events will have a positive financial impact for the local businesses on that day. He hopes, though, that it will have an impact beyond that.
“There will be other state dollars we will seek — for parks, road projects, economic development,” he said. “As legislators hear about Medina, they can put a name with the face as to what Medina is. My hope is, in the future, it will pay dividends.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.