With Kasich having former OH Auditor Mary Taylor as his running mate, if elected, fiscal responsibilty should be a cornerstone of their term. In her term as State Auditor, Taylor saved OH untold amounts of money.
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland is a decent and honorable son of Appalachian Ohio who promises a steady, if unspectacular, course through the rough seas ahead. He is clearly the safe bet, unlikely to either make a big mistake or bring about big change.
His Republican challenger, John Kasich, is a former congressman from suburban Columbus given to Reagan-style optimism and bold, sometimes questionable, ideas. He is just as clearly the wild card, eager to shake up the status quo and even challenge his own party, but also capable of talking himself right off a cliff.
The easy option would be to endorse Strickland, a dutiful caretaker steeped in public policy minutiae. At least you know what you'd get. But therein lies the problem.
Strickland, 69, suffers from limited imagination and political timidity; at times, he seems almost shellshocked by the loss of 400,000 jobs on his watch. He told The Toledo Blade last week that his administration should have moved faster to prevent Ohio businesses from fleeing to other states. He has consistently mistaken talk for action, produced budgets held together with bubble gum and twine and allowed his team to adopt a siege mentality. He stumbled badly on gambling, treated Ohio's cities as stepchildren and, in a shameful kowtow to his union allies, waged war on effective charter schools.
Even when his heart and mind are in the right place, Strickland can't or won't be daring. He ran for governor in 2006 -- with this editorial page's support -- promising to overhaul public education. After more than two years of study, he unveiled a blueprint for Ohio's classrooms that fobbed off many of the toughest decisions, including how to pay for it all, on some future administration.
Add to those disappointments Strickland's relentlessly negative campaign, his inability to articulate a vision for the state and the ennui that overtakes most lame-duck administrations, and there's little reason for excitement about Ohio's future under his leadership.
Kasich, 58, offers Ohio something it hasn't felt from its governor since the early days of Richard Celeste: a quickened pulse. Alternately arrogant and charming, Kasich can make a not-terribly-unconventional idea such as privatizing parts of the Department of Development -- it's been done elsewhere without triggering either a gold rush or a plague of locusts -- sound like a call to revolution.
But here's what's scary about Kasich: With his Red Bull style, it is sometimes hard to tell what's core belief, what's hot air and whether even he knows the difference. When Kasich praises Ohio's innovative Third Frontier effort, he still says things that suggest he doesn't understand or care how it works. Or listen to him talk about phasing out Ohio's income tax, reducing the state's commitment to public schools or even making university professors work harder. Does he understand that being a Fox News provocateur is not the same as being the leader of a diverse, complex state?
But then consider the needs of this state. Ohio needs to jumpstart an economy that was struggling even before the Great Recession. It needs to convince skeptical investors that its many assets -- top-shelf colleges and research institutions, solid transportation infrastructure, abundant freshwater, a Midwestern work ethic and a revamped tax code -- matter more than its reputation for stodginess and conflict. It needs to convince its ambitious young people that this is a great place to dream, innovate and achieve. And, for now anyway, it needs to do it all while digging out of a giant budget hole.
A can-do, roll-the-dice mindset just might enable Ohio to regain its self-confidence and sell itself to the world. Kasich has it; nice guy Ted Strickland never will.
Kasich showed, as House Budget chair the last time Washington used black ink, that he could cross partisan lines and get results. He also showed in Congress that although he is personally conservative, he has no time for divisive hot-button tactics; Ohio doesn't, either.
So we recommend John Richard Kasich for governor. With trepidation to be sure, but also with a belief that Ohio must take a risk to reap the rewards its citizens sorely need.
This post is not an endorsement of any candidate.
We encourage everyone to be a free-thinking, sovereign-minded & educated voter.