COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine addressed lawmakers for the first time in three years on Wednesday and while his entire speech wasn’t universally well received, he started and ended it with words almost all Ohioans could get behind.
DeWine appealed to the overwhelming support of Ukraine by signaling the state stands in solidarity with the country. “On behalf of the people of the state of Ohio, and all who love freedom, I say in salute: Glory to Ukraine. Glory to the heroes,” DeWine said before evoking the Buckeye state’s latest favorite son.
“Perhaps fellow Ohioan, Joe Burrow, said it best after the Bengals advanced to the AFC Championship game when he said ‘We’re a really, really good team. We’re here to make noise, and teams are going to have to pay attention to us because we are coming for it all,’” DeWine said. “Well, my fellow Ohioans, so is the state of Ohio.”
That’s when the tracks split along the bipartisan love train where Democrats went left at the railway switch toward Liberal Junction and the Republicans headed right toward Conservative Station.
DeWine mostly avoided controversial subjects such as the ongoing congressional map fiasco, which has put the primary election in limbo and the bill he signed earlier in the month allowing anyone aged 21 or older to carry a concealed firearm unless they are prohibited from possessing a gun under state or federal law.
Instead, DeWine took a victory lap celebrating the state’s 4.3% unemployment rate that is closing in on historic lows. Touting the largest economic development investment by one company, the governor mentioned the 20,000 jobs that Intel will generate in Ohio. The project is expected to bring an additional $2.8 billion to Ohio’s annual gross state product.
Other talking points in DeWine’s speech included investments in Ohio communities. DeWine spoke about investing in job training and workforce development, career education, and widespread broadband improvement.
Following the speech, politicians on both sides of the aisle weighed in on what the governor did and didn’t say.
Democrats like Lima native and Secretary of State candidate Chelsea Clark weren’t surprised to hear DeWine sidestep discussing the map. The Elida High School graduate also stated before DeWine took the podium that he would likely try to take credit for infrastructure improvements funded by the Democrat-backed stimulus package that narrowly passed along party lines.
“My expectations were that he would focus on the good things going on in Ohio that he could try to take credit for. Despite knowing that if the Democrats weren’t overwhelmingly elected in 2020, at least federally, a lot of these things that he wants to take credit for, could not have been accomplished,” Clark said.
“What he and his folks in the Republican Party have done, for several years really, is fought tooth and nail against the things that Ohioans need. I didn’t anticipate him saying anything positive about the redistricting process or mentioning anything beneficial that he or his fellow Republicans have added. He doesn’t have a problem with his son (Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine) not recusing himself (from the redistricting case prior to Gov. DeWine being ordered to appear) and he does not have a problem with voting for maps that are unconstitutional. And, so I don’t think he’s going to speak to the fact that they (Republican leaders) are the reason for this election chaos.”
Clark says the redistricting process is much simpler than the Republican-led committee is making it appear, calling it an “utter embarrassment to the state.” She says there should have been plenty of time to plan ahead.
“From the onset, a lot of this could have been avoided. They chose not to do it — they chose not to follow the letter of the law — and they chose not to make it a transparent process. They could have been honest and operated in good faith by working with Democrats in a bipartisan manner in order to get what Ohioans overwhelmingly wanted, but instead, they tried decided to deprive citizens of their vote.”
Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp mostly backed the governor’s proposals.
“He (DeWine) appropriately recounted some of the successes that we’ve had over the last few years and the many good things that have occurred and also looking ahead,” Cupp said.
Huffman took a slight detour with a few details of DeWine’s approach to getting tougher on crime. DeWine talked about harsher punishments on criminals with firearms and expressed his desire to see SB 283 passed. The bill would crack down on distracted drivers which DeWine says caused more than 10,000 crashes and led to dozens of deaths last year.
“We can’t give up on redemption, let me put it that way,” Huffman said but alluded to making tough decisions when protecting the public is at stake. He also said that in the past he has opposed tougher penalties on distracted driving.