COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — It was classic John Kasich.
At a wide-ranging final meeting with top advisers, the outspoken governor of Ohio reveled in big accomplishments, lamented defeats, recounted challenges, ribbed staff, castigated fellow Republicans and ordered at least one more program begun: “You got 24 hours. Do it.”
Kasich granted The Associated Press exclusive access to the last Cabinet meeting, held Monday (Jan. 7), a four-hour gathering of 22 agency heads, key aides and a spiritual adviser in his ceremonial Statehouse office.
He shared behind-the-scenes accounts of many of the biggest news events of the past eight years, including the state’s deadliest school shooting, threats of a dam failure, an Ebola scare and a battle with fellow Republicans in the Legislature over Medicaid expansion.
Cabinet members got their own chance to recall brusque or pointed job interviews with a governor criticized eight years ago for being brash and often insensitive, including the male interviewee who helped Kasich push his wife’s car into the garage, only to be told the governor was thinking the job best suited a woman.
The two-time presidential contender ends his eight-year tenure Sunday (Jan. 13), due to term limits. He’s weighing another White House bid or a return to cable television.
The meeting’s prevailing theme was victory over cumbersome bureaucracies, special interests and old-style thinking, a mindset Kasich characterized as “all about change.”
“Every single thing we’re talking about is knocking down the traditional barriers that have stood in the way of change,” he told the group. “So, wherever you go in life, it’s worth being a change agent. That’s how you’re youthful, exciting and looking forward.”
Kasich and his advisers reviewed the 24/7 nature of handling crisis. He was at a well-lubricated New Year’s Eve party in 2011 when informed there had been an earthquake near an injection well in Youngstown, and at the gym when he was informed of Ohio’s deadliest school shooting.
He said he wanted to visit Chardon High School that day, but without disrupting emergency operations. He had a state trooper drive him there.
“I told the trooper, I said drive the car around to the back. I don’t want anybody to know we’re here,” he said. Kasich said he got a personal briefing from school officials and worked to mobilize state help.
The governor also recalled going back and forth with then-Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins during an overnight phone call over how to handle a crisis involving the safety of the city’s drinking water in summer 2014.
“I said, ‘Mayor, I wouldn’t drink that water if it was the last water left in Ohio,” Kasich told the Cabinet.
Aides also recounted “a little incident with the CDC” — when Centers for Disease Control experts were apparently unable to get to Ohio quickly enough during a 2014 Ebola scare and a Kasich staffer put a $16,000 chartered plane on a state credit card. The CDC confirmed the story.
“We should have put the Reaganomics on that credit card,” Kasich joked.
Kasich confessed to advisers that he was “very, very concerned” for his well-being after he granted condemned child killer Ronald Phillips’ request to delay his execution. The family of Phillips’ victim was livid after Kasich agreed to a delay Phillips said related to wanting to donate a kidney to his mother.
“I thought, look, this guy is going to be executed and he wanted to do something good, for his mother, let’s let him do it,” Kasich recalled. “There were a number of people in the room who thought it was a con job. Well, guess what? It was. There was no match, there was no nothing.”
Kasich called the family of Phillips’ victim and “got a blast through the phone.” He said he learned from the experience and the next time he reprieved a killer, he met personally with the family. It was still a tense meeting, but he said he shared the story of his parents’ death at the hands of a drunk driver and his “evolution about forgiveness” and it seemed to calm tensions in the room.
The 66-year-old Kasich, one of his party’s most vocal detractors of President Donald Trump, said he leaves office with his share of disappointments, including failing to entirely eliminate Ohio’s income tax and failing to implement a more aggressive approach to regulating the persistent algae blooms in Lake Erie.
“One of the things I wish we’d done was the business up there with Lake Erie,” he told advisers. “And that’s one where the special interests won, and they distort it and all that other nonsense. But you can’t win ‘em all.”
UPDATE: Tuesday, January 15:
Ex-governor, Trump critic John Kasich lands talent agent
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican John Kasich (KAY’-sik) has a talent agent.
United Talent Agency announced its new client Monday, as Kasich was succeeded as Ohio governor by Republican Mike DeWine.
Kasich said in a release that he’s excited to keep his voice active “across the world” and to share his experiences and observations “to help improve the lives of others.”
The 66-year-old Kasich is weighing a third run for president in 2020 against Republican Donald Trump, whom he often criticizes. Kasich says he would prefer to run as a Republican but could also run as an independent.
United Talent says its role as his agent will be to “help Kasich navigate the next phase of his career in civic engagement, by continuing to inspire audiences to lead purpose-driven lives of service.”
GOP’s John Kasich joins CNN as commentator
UPDATE: Tuesday, January 15
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former Gov. John Kasich says he’s joined CNN as a political commentator.
The Ohio Republican is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump and a potential 2020 presidential contender.
Kasich announced in a tweet on Tuesday that he will begin immediately as a regular contributor on the cable news network.
Kasich concluded eight years as governor on Sunday. The next day, Beverly Hills-based United Talent Agency announced they’d signed him as a new client.
Since abandoning a 2016 presidential bid, Kasich has steadily criticized Trump and the Republican Party on cable and network news shows.
The 66-year-old has worked with Democrats including then-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Vice President Joe Biden on efforts to identify bipartisan policy solutions and to promote civility in politics.
Republican Party is Mired in the 1950s
Ignores Today’s America at its Peril
By John Kasich
Republicans need to break their own self-made mold of being naysayers instead of doers. It means designing solutions that actually solve problems.
It’s a new year and almost two decades into a new century, yet so much about American life and our political leadership — notably in my own Republican Party — seems stuck in the 1950s. While nearly every aspect of the world around us has been changing, sometimes with breakneck speed, and while the complexion and complexities of our demographics have shifted so dramatically, those who fancy themselves as leaders are plodding far behind the march of time. Sadly, too many Americans are content to plod along with them.
Perhaps they think denial is protection from the change that swirls around them. No doubt they’re threatened by the new diversity of voices that have joined the public chorus, by the long-ignored problems that a new generation wants to solve, by an unsettled world that no longer follows America’s lead. But they’ve learned absolutely nothing from their skunking in the midterm elections. They didn’t watch, or chose to ignore, the new Congress being sworn in the other day. It was a more energetic, diverse and self-assured group than those chambers have seen before.
But ignoring change like that won’t stop it. And failing to find solutions to our problems will only lead to greater challenges down the road. A case in point: Opponents of Obamacare ask how such a thing came to be, oblivious to the fact that their own inaction is to blame. By ignoring giant holes in America’s health care system and failing to find a ways to fix them with hard work and compromise, they watched that vacuum filled with a behemoth they deplore.
Yet people like these at all levels of government find themselves caught on the same, well-worn treadmill time and again. By failing to come up with fresh ideas and real solutions for our most vexing problems, congressional Republicans, the White House and other power structures in Washington let those problems fester or reluctantly patch them up with half-baked solutions that only make things worse. That same change-ignoring inertia holds back progress in our states.
Old problems need new solutions
Think of the problems that cry out for solutions: health care, immigration, deficits and debt, income inequality, urban violence, drugs, climate and environment, free trade, prescription costs, infrastructure decay, cybersecurity, education and workforce readiness, student debt … how many pages do I have to go on?
These aren’t new problems, but many have grown worse. And none can be ignored any longer in a younger, more diverse and more demanding America that’s increasingly impatient with the old way of thinking. This emerging leadership won’t be put off, ignored or disenfranchised, but I’m confident that they will be open to new ideas and the kind of commonsense approaches that truly solve problems — and solve them for all Americans, not just a privileged few.
In this changing world, successful leaders must look each problem squarely in the eye, listen to their customers, and realize how dramatically those customers have changed. No one will survive by practicing politics the way Sears or Radio Shack practiced retail, stuck in the 1950s while the world moved on with Amazon, Uber and others who have broken the mold. For Republicans, this means breaking their own self-made mold of being naysayers instead of doers. It means designing market-driven, center-right solutions that actually solve problems while revealing their compassion.
Republicans must get in step or they fall behind
We’ve done that in Ohio. For example, we worked to expand access to technology for Ohioans with developmental disabilities, helping them use those advances to improve the quality of their lives. We made important progress improving our health care system by providing incentives that encourage providers to focus on quality care rather than quantity. We added more than 568,000 jobs over eight years, shedding Ohio’s “Rust Belt” image by replacing our government-run development bureaucracy with a private, not-for-profit economic development effort managed by industry experts — in the process becoming the focal point for a new “Knowledge Belt.”
There’s no reason the same formula can’t be applied nationwide. It’s time for Republicans in our state capitals and Washington to get in step with the fast-moving parade. Otherwise, they’ll lose. Because there’s one thing we learn from parades: Anyone falling behind gets swept up by those guys who follow the horses.
Kasich is Ohio’s former governor. This column originally appeared in USA Today and was provided by Kasich for America. For more information, visit www.JohnKasich.com
DeWine era to mark shift away from volatile Kasich, Trump
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The inauguration of Ohio Gov.-elect Mike DeWine will mark a shift away from volatility in a state buffeted in recent years between the shifting ambitions of an outspoken governor and the frequent outbursts of an unpredictable president.
Even before taking office Monday (Jan. 14), DeWine, who is currently the attorney general, has moved through the transition process with a methodical calm. He’s laid out his slate of diverse, bipartisan Cabinet picks at amply announced news conferences and politely declined to answer questions that might step on outgoing Gov. John Kasich’s toes.
The theme of DeWine’s inaugural — “Faith, Family and Friends” — feels like a dose of comfort food after Kasich’s bold “New Day” and two years of President Donald Trump.
A return to predictability may have been in many voters’ minds this fall as they delivered DeWine a comfortable 3.7-point victory over his Democratic challenger, Obama-era consumer protection chief Richard Cordray.
“Mike DeWine has a long track record and is known by a lot of Ohioans,” said election analyst Mike Dawson. “So, they knew what they were getting with Mike DeWine.”
DeWine, a Catholic family man who lives on an historic farm in rural Cedarville, will be Ohio’s oldest governor at 72. His governorship will cap a political career that began as an assistant prosecutor in rural Ohio in the 1970s and saw election to seats in the Ohio House, U.S. House, the state lieutenant governor’s office and the U.S. Senate.
His style isn’t the only thing that will differentiate DeWine from Kasich. He’s also expressed willingness to embrace some more conservative policies. That includes moving in his final days as attorney general to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Ohio’s congressional districts and saying he’s willing to sign a heartbeat abortion ban that would be one of the most stringent restrictions on the procedure in the country.
But whether supporting an abortion bill that Kasich twice vetoed means DeWine’s inauguration will mark a shift to the right for Ohio is unclear.
Matt Borges, former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said the idea of banning abortions at the first detectable heartbeat has become less extreme as society and science change. Just three weeks ago, the anti-abortion Ohio Right to Life, which got Kasich to sign 21 of its bills over eight years, adjusted its longstanding neutral stance on the heartbeat bill to support.
“Things are a lot different than they were in 1973 (when Roe v. Wade legalize abortion as legalized). They’re different than they were in 2003,” Borges said. “The idea of who can be kept alive, the stigma that was attached to unwanted pregnancies, perception has changed, things are different.”
Kasich enjoyed a popularity driven by Ohioans of both parties, having won over many Democrats with his heartbeat vetoes, advocacy for Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law and his work on bipartisan policy solutions that included a package of “common sense” gun restrictions.
DeWine campaigned with both Kasich and the man he often criticizes, Trump, to win the election. He also has a reputation for “governing from the middle,” Dawson said.
That has made it difficult for political observers to know what Ohio voters had in mind when they pulled the lever for Republicans this fall. Democratic strategist Aaron Pickrell said he doesn’t believe it was policies that are drastically more conservative.
“If Kasich is sort of more of the face of the Republican Party and DeWine’s not a super polarizing figure, I think, to a certain degree, it was more a status quo kind of election here and not a tack to the right,” he said.
Justin Barasky, who managed Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s successful re-election campaign in November, said he believes DeWine will be both a more predictable and a more conservative leader for the state.
“Mike DeWine is someone Ohioans know very well,” Barasky said. “He’s not going to call police officers an idiot, he’s not going to go from being this hard-core right-winger to every Democrat’s favorite Republican like Kasich, he’s not going to fire off all-caps tweets in the middle of the night like the President of the United States does. He’s going to do a lot of terrible stuff, but he’s not going to surprise a lot of people.”
Follow Julie Carr Smyth at https://twitter.com/jcarrsmyth