Ohio Gov. John Kasich favored philosophy over policy — and politics — in his final State of the State address Tuesday evening, saying he has done the best he can while vowing to “run through the tape” before he leaves early next year.
With references to philosophers and theologians, the second-term Republican dwelt on values such as love, humility, forgiveness, compassion, responsibility, and justice, saying they have guided him and can be embraced by more Ohioans to help improve their state.
“I think because we have been faithful to practicing these values, I believe the state of Ohio is stronger today that it has been in a generation,” Mr. Kasich said to a crowd of more than 900 people in the Fritsche Theatre at Otterbein University in his hometown of Westerville. “Ohio is back, and Ohio is strong again.”
Mr. Kasich rapidly painted the picture of his first seven-plus years in office as seeing improvements in job creation, mental health, and developmental disability treatment, reduced prison populations, and efforts to battle Ohio’s deadly opioid crisis, human trafficking, and other social ills.
He called on Ohioans to help others.
“We need to have a more permanent compass,” he said. “Everyone deserves respect regardless of race, creed, appearance, our station in life. We all deserve respect because we were all created, made in the image of our creator.”
Mr. Kasich admitted he was a flawed man but said he has worked hard to help Ohioans since the day as a young Ohio Senate intern he would sneak looks into the governor’s office in the Statehouse. “One night, I went down to the door, and I looked and my name was on it. What a journey …”
“All I’ve ever tried to do was to lift myself as far as I could go meet the honor of that office, to lift myself to reach a little higher so I could be worthy of it. … I have just done everything I can do, I’ve done my best,” said Mr. Kasich, who made no references to his potential presidential aspirations in 2020.
Minority Democrats said they heard inspiring words from the governor, but they want to see more action in areas where the state continues to underperform the nation, including infant mortality and job growth.
“We all heard some very uplifting commentary and inspiring words, and I thought that was a build to talk about some more complicated policy issues like common-sense gun safety issues,” said House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D., Dayton). “That just did not happen. It feels like a loss.”
While the speech had some really nice thoughts, Mr. Strahorn said, he did not hear about passing policies to create the kind of opportunities and innovation that once attracted people to the state.
“That’s just not happening today. We’re leading in all the wrong ways,” he said.
“What we’re doing in Ohio may be working for some corporations, and it may be working for some rich people, but there’s an awful lot of Ohioans, despite what the governor said, are being left behind.”
While the large majority of his speech was devoted to faith and values, Mr. Kasich did deliver two nuggets of news.
A $112 million behavioral health facility will rise to replace the 1977-era Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare campus on the Hilltop, the busiest state mental facility in the state. The new building will improve care for more Ohioans, Mr. Kasich’s administration said.
The Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area, named for Ohio State’s University gold-medal track and field star, eventually will occupy 13,000 acres on AEP-reclaimed former coal mining land in Morgan and Muskingum counties. Mr. Kasich, an Ohio State graduate, chose the name for the park, which he said will become the state’s largest.