Another Ohio governor’s race? Prepare for the empty promises

By Thomas Suddes -



Every four years, each candidate running to become, or remain, governor of Ohio promises that things will get better – if you elect him or her.

And then, the world doesn’t much change. Because, like the road to a hotter place, the road to the Statehouse is paved with good intentions. Words may be eloquent, pledges may be sincere, but “promising” doesn’t necessarily mean “delivering.”

So Ohio voters likely will hear some same old, same old, before next year’s primary election for the governorship (primary day: May 8, 2018).

So far, eight contenders (four Republicans, four Democrats) have said or signaled they want to be Ohio’s 70th governor. (The incumbent, Republican Gov. John Kasich, can’t seek a third consecutive term.)

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, viewed as a young rising star by state Democrats, announced on May 8 she is running for governor. Whaley, 41, in a statement said Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other Republicans who generally have controlled state government over the past 25 years have “run the state into the ground.”

In alphabetical order, the Democrats who’re aiming to run the Riffe Center’s 30th floor, where the governor’s office is, are former state Rep. Connie Pillich, of Cincinnati (Democrats’ 2014 candidate for state treasurer); state Sen. Joseph Schiavoni, of suburban Youngstown; former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, of suburban Akron; and Whaley.

The four Republicans are Attorney General Mike DeWine; Secretary of State Jon Husted; U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, of Wadsworth; and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

Over roughly 40 years, these have been among the slogans or themes sounded by Ohio governors: Republican James A. Rhodes, “Jobs and Progress”; Democrat Richard F. Celeste, “Action Agenda”; Republican George V. Voinovich, “Work Harder and Smarter, Do More with Less”; Republican Bob Taft. “the Third Frontier”; Democrat Ted Strickland, “Turnaround Ohio”; and Kasich, “A New Way.”

In fairness, the promises and pledges implied by those words surely have helped individual Ohioans to some degree, and individual towns, and individual employers. But for too many Ohioans, things haven’t changed for a long time, unless an Ohioan happens to be rich enough to take advantage of the lush income-tax cuts approved by Kasich and the GOP-run General Assembly, or the sweet business-tax breaks Ohio has for years handed out at the Statehouse like swag bags at a Hollywood gala.

A permanent job that pays a living wage gives an Ohioan something no slogan can: a future.

Meanwhile, as observed here before, Ohio’s annual per-capita personal income ($44,876) lags the nation’s ($49,571), according to Ohio Development Services Agency data.

What’s more, take a look at “transfer payments” that are received in Ohio, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment compensation and veterans’ benefits.

Transfer payments, as also observed here before, are a significant economic factor. Nationwide, in 2015, about 17.3 percent of personal income came from “transfer payments,” according to federal data cited by the Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Analysis Project.

But transfer payments made up 20.1 percent of Ohio 2015 personal income. And Paul Ryan’s health care bill would slash Medicaid, a significant component of transfer payments.

Still, next year’s candidates, like those in earlier campaigns, likely will talk up, without specifics, “jobs” and “the economy.” But job sites and marketplaces are changing faster by the day. Examples: The squeeze on traditional retailers by online merchandisers; automation of what had long been jobs in offices or laboratories; the steady push to classify more and more Ohioans, who’d otherwise be hired as employees, as “independent contractors” (to avoid providing employee benefits).

So, in looking over contenders to be Ohio’s next governor, traditional rhetoric might get in the way of a key question: Which man or woman would be likeliest to actually do things, not just talk them up — things to improve someone’s real-world circumstances? Because a permanent job that pays a living wage gives an Ohioan something no slogan can: a future.


By Thomas Suddes