That was the commitment Gov. Ted Strickland made during a campaign stop on Saturday in Gallipolis, where he met with local Democrats at the party headquarters. Strickland is facing a stiff campaign for re-election from former Republican congressman John Kasich in the race for governor.
“This community has benefited from having the GDC here,” Strickland said. “I know many people work at GDC, work hard, provide a vital service caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our state. And I honor those who work there day after day.”
The Gallipolis Developmental Center, like other centers across the Buckeye State, has struggled due to state budget cuts in 2009 and a reduction in its census. Over the past several years, rumors have swirled that the state would close the GDC. In March of this year, those rumors again came to the forefront, but proved to be false. However, the GDC did eliminate 38 positions in April and offered early retirement to other employees.
The governor, however, stopped short of making any type of financial commitment to developmental centers, citing the current economic recession as the reason for budget cuts at centers around Ohio.
“The honest answer that I must give to you is that during this terrible economic recession, I’ve had to make tough decisions, and I’ve had to ask — and it’s been painful — but I’ve had to ask for cutbacks to get us through this time,” Strickland said. “But I deeply believe in and value the importance of this center and others around the state that are providing services to the most needy people among us. And I’m absolutely committed to continuing those services.”
Strickland said he is hopeful that the state’s economy will rebound, but said he couldn’t foresee how a potential turnaround would affect developmental centers or other state agencies strapped financially due to budget cuts.
“We will get back to a more normal economy,” Strickland said. “I think we’re starting to move in that direction, but it’s difficult for me to actually prophesy the immediate future. But people can be assured that I will do the very best that I can do to see that services remain in place and that people remain employed. I will do everything I can possibly do to accomplish that.”
Strickland’s comments about the GDC followed a 20-minute speech in which he thundered away at Kasich and detailed the policy and idealistic differences between himself and his GOP challenger. He ignited the crowd from the outset with a Biblical reference that drew cheers and applause.
“The Republicans prematurely wrote my political obituary,” Strickland said to open his address. “But I want you to know that I have changed my name. I am now known as Ted ‘Lazarus’ Strickland.”
The governor later cited recent opinion polls of voters, many of which have shown Kasich ahead through the summer and early fall. The most recent figures, Strickland said, indicate that the race is much closer than some pundits previously thought.
“This race is very close,” the governor said. “Our internal polls have me up 3 points. CNN/Time, they did a poll last week, they had me up 1 point. There are other polls that had me down 1 point, 2 points. One poll had me down 17 points — we were never down 17 points. But for a little while were down for a little bit.”
Strickland said his campaign delayed releasing any type of heavy advertising blitz until the late stages of the race. Over the past month, the governor’s campaign has become much more visible on television with the introduction of numerous commercials.
“We are now neck and neck, but the election has not yet been decided, my friends,” Strickland said. “It will be decided between now and when the polls close on Nov. 2. And that’s why I feel so hopeful, because of you. ... I’m going back to my home base. I wanted to come back to you because you have always been there for me. And this election is so close. I think it will be decided by 1 to 3 percentage points. I think it will be that close. That means every vote counts.”
The general election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 2. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Early voting is open until Monday, Nov. 1. In Gallia County, those who wish to cast ballots early can do so at the Gallia County Board of Elections, located at the county courthouse. The board of elections is open from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and will be open for early voting from 8 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Oct. 30.