RIO GRANDE — Four years ago, candidate John Kasich stood before voters in Gallia County as an outsider wanting to bring change to Columbus - four years later, Incumbent Kasich returned to reassure the GOP faithful of his revolutionary status despite his insider access at the statehouse.
“We’re still revolutionaries and change makers,” Kasich told those gathered at Monday night’s Lincoln Day Dinner sponsored by the Gallia County Republican Party at the University of Rio Grande.
Of course, not everyone is a fan of Kasich’s change. While he spoke to a packed house of supporters inside, outside, several protesters gathered to bring attention to the state’s layoffs at Gallipolis Developmental Center (GDC). Last year, the state announced 80 people at GDC were losing their jobs - in part, citing a declining patient census. The Kasich Administration has said all of the employees impacted by the 2013 changes were offered alternative employment opportunities with the state or early retirement options. These protesters shouted that Kasich needed to go as some attendees were entering the dinner. (More on this in another story on Page One.)
Kasich began his speech talking about the influence of his mother on his life, saying he learned from her that: “Sometimes you’ve got to shake things up if you want progress.” From his father, he said he learned not to owe anyone anything.
Kasich said politics is not about following the crowd but getting in to improve the system and help people. He said the compass he and his team use includes following truth and asking themselves what they’re doing to change people’s lives.
He spoke about entering into office with the state of Ohio in an $8 billion hole and how, as of Monday night, the state had a $1.4 billion surplus. Kasich credited this turn around with managing a budget much like any other family has to - “don’t spend more than you take in,” he simply said.
He also talked about getting rid of the death tax and cutting the income tax, the latter of which he wants to cut again. He felt the country should be run from the bottom up rather than the up down.
Kasich told the GOP faithful he would never be happy in his job until Southeastern Ohio is doing well. He spoke about the importance of creating jobs and that “work is dignity.” He said overall, Ohio had gained 170,000 jobs after being down 300,000.
He then spoke about education, saying there are one million Ohioans without a high school diploma. He asked those in attendance to think about how that was working out for some of those without their diplomas, adding, “you might meet a few of them when they’re breaking into your home.” He said education needs to start in the early years and continue through high school into community colleges. He said Ohio needs business leaders in its schools as well as the faith-based community to connect one-on-one with students.
“If you can’t see success, you can’t get there,” he said.
Kasich said his administration was committed to requiring schools to have more accountability; that the days of just pushing students along were over.
His remarks on education led into his feelings on battling drugs, including shutting down pill mills and taking the licenses of physicians caught up in those mills. However, he said driving drug dealers out of Ohio wasn’t enough, that his administration was launching “Five Minutes for Life,” an educational initiative meant to provide student-athletes interaction with law enforcement on the dangers of drug use.
The governor closed his remarks by saying: “Government can’t fix this…we can. It’s going to take us to realize we are, frankly, carrying out the Lord’s purpose…it’s about what this country was built on.”
Kasich was introduced by Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) of the 93rd District. Smith’s introduction touted Kasich’s “structural changes to the tax code” and budget surplus. Smith said the crowd knew where they’d been and he hoped they realized where they were going; that they were on a trajectory for good things under Kasich’s continued leadership.