Gov. John Kasich did not personally make the announcement that he’s selected the Medina Performing Arts Center as the site for his State of the State speech on Feb.24. He was at the Detroit Auto Show. But he spoke by phone as he was leaving Detroit.
“I’m always excited to take this out of the capital. I know in the beginning that this was something that people wondered why. But I think to give Ohioans a chance to be able to see something like this done somewhere other than the state capitol – which they either see on a tour or have never visited – is a good way to connect with people.”
Connecting outside Columbus
Kasich says giving Ohioans a chance to see the speech outside Columbus is a good way to connect with them. And to some, the choice makes sense from a geographic perspective.
Kasich’s first road State of the State was in Steubenville. The second, last year, was in Lima.
And it works on a political level. Medina is a strongly Republican County, and it’s home to House Speaker Bill Batchelder, who ends his career as the state’s longest-serving lawmaker currently in office this year.
Batchelder says that he’s pleased the governor has selected his hometown, but that the decision to move the speech is up to the Legislature.
In FitzGerald's face?
Medina County is also on the doorstep of the Democratic stronghold of Cuyahoga County – where Kasich’s likely opponent Ed FitzGerald is the county executive. Democratic Representative Ron Gerberry of the Youngstown area has been railing against moving the State of the State out of the Statehouse for years. Gerberry says he appreciates the choice of Medina as a nice way to honor Batchelder – the only lawmaker who’s served longer than Gerberry has. But Gerberry also says moving the speech is a slap in the face to tradition, and that it turns the address to lawmakers into a political rally.
“It’s nothing against Lima, it’s nothing against Steubenville. It’s just that it’s the State of the State. It should be the governor walking down that aisle with Republicans and Democrats standing up in our chamber and having him present his case to us. It’s just wrong.”
A small, select audience
But one political scientist in northeast Ohio says the location of the speech may not matter much. Justin Buchler is a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
“In terms of choosing a location, there is some small political message. But I don’t see it as a particularly important point. I think it’s much more important to see where rallies are held than to see where a speech is made, particularly given the relatively low visibility of the speech.”
Buchler says it’s likely a small group of people highly interested in state politics are the only ones who will be seeing and hearing the speech, so he feels it matters more where the governor chooses to make his re-election campaign launch than his annual address to state lawmakers, most of whom are strongly supportive of his administration.