Ohio's Kasich touts education, broadband in speech

By Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 7 2012 6:16 p.m. MST

"Where I thought it was a little short, unlike traditional State of the State speeches, was on any specific legislative agenda that he wants us to pursue," Seitz said.

A handful of protesters, likely admitted to the speech on public tickets Kasich distributed through an online lottery, temporarily interrupted the speech about an hour and 10 minutes into it — shouting "John Kasich is selling out Ohio!"

Highway Patrol Lt. Anne Ralston said troopers helped escort out seven hecklers and two left on their own. There were no arrests or charges filed.

The ruckus came as Kasich was talking about drilling for natural gas in eastern Ohio.

He said large energy companies flocking to the state amid the Marcellus and Utica shale boom don't want to leave the state harmed. "We can't degrade the environment at the same time we're developing this industry," Kasich said.

Outside the school, which shares Steubenville High School, more than 100 demonstrators gathered — some to oppose the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to reach Ohio's oil and gas resources. One sign read, "Frack Off Kasich." Others demonstrated in support of the Occupy movement.

State Rep. Bob Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat whose area has experienced earthquakes a state seismologist says are tied to deep injection disposal of fracking wastewater, spent $800 in campaign money to bus in about 50 of the protesters.

But he said he wants to work with Kasich on the issue.

"Well, if he wants to do it safely then let's get together," he said. "Let's get to the Legislature where these bill are passed to make sure it's safe." He noted that bills ordered a statewide drilling moratorium and disclosure of fracking chemicals are stalled.

Shane Hanley, 47, a locked-out worker with Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and member of the steelworker's union, drove the 3.5 hours to Steubenville from Findlay.

He and four others came to let Kasich know a bitter collective bargaining fight — in which voters turned back a bill limiting the rights of unionized public workers — would not be forgotten.

"The union movement ain't going away and don't forget that."

Following the speech, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association President Christopher Mabe said Kasich failed to address "kitchen table issues that matter the most to middle-class families," such as paying for education, retiring with dignity or maintaining safe communities.

"Missing from Gov. Kasich's remarks are the thousands of state, county and municipal employees who have lost their jobs, including over 2,000 front line state employees, during his first year. That has had a dramatic impact on our communities," Mabe said in a statement. "We are part of the solution."

The day's speech was peppered with Kasich's usual array of off-the-cuff, sometimes puzzling remarks. He at one point said he "never looked back" when he left politics, presumably referring to his time in Congress. He was elected as a Republican governor in 2010.

He also referred to people in California as "wackadoodles." And he had no sooner told the emotional stories of his first two courage award winners than he added, "We don't want to see those on eBay, ladies."

Moving the speech was a chance for Kasich, whose approval rating with voters is under 40 percent, to reconnect with voters after the collective bargaining debate. Ahead of the address, he enjoyed handshakes with guests and congratulations from supporters.

On Monday, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern predicted "an extended speech with little in the way of nouns, adverbs, subjects and predicates."

Redfern assembled reporters ahead of the speech to tout the role he says was played by President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and other Democrats in the jobs recovery — particular in the automotive industry — that he correctly predicted Kasich would highlight.

Ohio unemployment fell to 8.1 in December, down from 8.5 in November and from 9.5 in December 2010.

Kasich said he's hearing from businesses that are excited to invest in Ohio again.

"We're alive again. We're out of the ditch. We're growing," he said.

Redfern criticized Kasich's promotion of a Bob Evans Restaurants expansion last year that relocated the company from Columbus to neighboring New Albany.

"It's not about moving Bob Evans across town," he said. "It's about investing in American automobile jobs that help real communities like Defiance in a tangible, trackable, empirical way."

Online:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich: http://www.governor.ohio.gov

Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus and Ann Sanner in Steubenville contributed to this report.

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