Kasich to deliver election-year address in NE Ohio

ANN SANNER JULIE CARR SMYTH AP Statehouse Correspondent Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich will take his State of the State speech on the road again Monday, heading into the northeast Ohio home turf of Democratic gubernatorial rival Ed FitzGerald.

The Republican governor has signaled that he doesn't intend to shy away from major initiatives just because it's an election year. He's expected to plug fresh ideas involving education, job and career training and economic development in the speech at the Performing Arts Center in Medina.

It remains unclear whether an ambitious agenda emerging from Kasich would be welcomed in the state Legislature, where his fellow Republicans are seeking to retain their House and Senate majorities this fall.

Medina is also home to GOP House Speaker William Batchelder, who's winding up a 46-year career in public service this year. Kasich has said he selected the location as a tribute.

His speech last year was held in Lima, in the district of Senate President Keith Faber. He began the tradition in 2012, with a speech in the heart of Democrat-heavy Steubenville after losing a contentious battle with unions that turned back collective bargaining restrictions.

Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell thanked Kasich and legislative leaders for gracing his city in an open letter Friday.

"This will permit our wonderful city to be showcased in the state spotlight, as well as share the many positive and appealing amenities that our city has to offer," Hanwell wrote.

The local Chamber of Commerce has arranged tours of local manufacturers for state lawmakers, along with private receptions at area restaurants ahead of the speech.

Debra Lynn-Schmitz, president of the Greater Medina Chamber of Commerce, said the organization estimates that about 250-300 legislators, their staff and guests will be visiting the town. She said she hopes they leave the city with a better understanding of the community and what it's done for its businesses.

"If we can create some interest in the community itself that's going to help our businesses in the long run -- it's a good thing," Lynn-Schmitz said. "It's commerce."

One legislative committee planned to hold its meeting at the Medina Hospital's conference center.

Members of the governor's Cabinet also scheduled area events and roundtables. The directors of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and state Environmental Protection Agency planned to highlight efforts to plug vertical oil and gas wells that are no longer in production. The abandoned wells from oil and gas drilling pose a risk for groundwater contamination if left unplugged.

Near the site of the speech, the labor-backed We Are Ohio organization plans to discuss Kasich's policies, which they argue have made it harder for working- and middle-class families. The group led the successful 2011 ballot repeal of collective bargaining restrictions for public workers.