During the campaign, John Kasich attempted to make a serious play for the votes in Ted Strickland’s base of Southeastern Ohio, visiting the area number of times hammering Governor Strickland on the issue of jobs in the community:
"I’ll get a team of job creators focused on this area – people down here have been promised and misled for 50 years . . . I will focus on this area like a laser beam when I’m governor." –John Kasich [Source: WSAZ (Oct. 22, 2010)]
Voters still backed Strickland in the region… albeit in a much smaller margin than the Strickland campaign wanted or needed.
In November, voters in the 89th District handily elected Scioto County Coroner Dr. Terry Johnson (R) to the open seat race to replace term-limited State Representative Todd Book (D) 58% to 40% (with a Green Party candidate getting less than 2%). Part of that result was fueled by the national Republican wave. Another significant factor was that there was a bitter Democratic primary fight in which businessman Ron Hadsell upset party favored Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree. Crabtree wound up disowned by the Scioto County Democratic Party when Crabtree recorded an ad endorsing Johnson over Hadsell.
As a result of the prominence of the Crabtree name in Scioto County, a high number of Democrats voted for Terry Johnson, making him the first Republican to represent the region in the Ohio House in sixty-five years. (The longest occupant of the seat was powerful Democratic House Speaker Vern Riffe, whom after theRiffe Center in Columbus is named.)
Johnson ran on a tradition conservative campaign platform saying on jobs:
- “I solemnly pledge to do everything I can to get government out of your pocket! I want you to pay less in taxes. I want our government to spend less, to be leaner and more essential, and to stop wasting your hard earned money!”
- “What am I in favor of? Smaller government—it must be leaner and cleaner! I want less spending, lower taxes, and balanced budgets. How’s that for starters?”
State Representative Terry Johnson got his wish. Governor Kasich’s “Jobs Budget” calls for the closure of the Department of Youth Services facility—the one located in Johnson’s district.
According to the Portsmouth Daily Times, the facility in Johnson’s district employees 333 folks in an area with chronically high unemployment and unbelievable rural poverty. (In January 2011, Scioto County, the largest portion of Johnson’s district, had an unemployment rate of 13.2%.)
“The announcement of this closure comes as a complete shock to me,” Johnson said. “We in southern Ohio cannot afford to lose a single job, much less 333 of them. Whether it is a government job or a private sector job, we need to keep them all.”
“I anticipated a fight over privatization, which I am opposed to,” Johnson said. “I did not expect a closure — I was certainly not consulted in the making of this decision, and I will fight hard to reverse it.”
Johnson has already announced that he will oppose SB 5. Now, as we predicted roughly a week after the election, he will be forced to vote against Kasich’s state budget. So Johnson will be marginalized as one of the nine votes Republicans can afford to lose in his party.\
The problem for Johnson is that his opposition will be meaningless if the facility still closes. Voters won’t care that Johnson voted against the budget if he was powerless to prevent a Governor of his own party from harming the region. His opposition to SB 5 will only mitigate the political damage it has caused there, where the bill is widely opposed. It’s almost as if Kasich had already concluded that absent the GOP wave, there was virtually no chance that Terry Johnson would stay in the House, so there’s no point in politically protecting him. (The facility is also, I believe, in the district of Senate President Terry Niehaus… who actually lives in the opposite end of the district and would be under no risk of losing re-election even if he weren’t already term limited.)
In the end, we have a freshman GOP member of the House who is stunned that calls for government spending less could result in the loss of hundreds of good paying, middle class jobs in his district. A “Jobs Budget” that cuts hundreds of jobs in an area the Governor promised he would “focus like a laser beam” to help fight its chronic unemployment and poverty that has lead to prescription drug abuse epidemic that in known throughout the nation.
So what does Governor Kasich have to say to those voters in Southeastern Ohio whom he promised he’d “focus like a laser beam” to combat unemployment there?
Kasich’s budget director denied in press conferences last week that Kasich’s “Jobs” Budget would lead to mass layoffs. But we’ve already seen news stories that show 99 folks in the Taxation Department have already been told they’re going to be laid off. Now hundreds in Southeastern Ohio. This doesn’t count as a mass layoff?
For a “Jobs Budget,” this budget “doesn’t get the jobs done.”