Ohio Needs A Real Leader
By David H. Landon
It’s obvious to anyone paying attention that Ohio’s economy is a disaster. The economic recession has had devastating impact on our state and local governments. Unemployment rates have topped 10 percent for the past 20 months. There is an $8 billion hole in the next biennial budget which state government has not yet addressed. The present budget was only able to be balanced by raiding the “rainy day fund,” using federal stimulus funding and other accounting methods which employed the use of smoke and mirrors. The size of state government has doubled since 1992, while during the same time Ohio has suffered a net population loss. Industries continue to leave the state and in the past four years Ohio has lost nearly 400,000 jobs. The situation is as serious as it could possibly be.
In three weeks Ohio voters will be asked to choose a governor. Democrat Governor Ted Strickland is asking voters to give him another four years. He is being challenged by Republican John Kasich, a former member of the U.S. House and the last man to have balanced the federal budget.
Ohio needs a real leader to take the reins during this next period in our history. Unless we make drastic changes to our government, Ohio will never again be a state where we can be confident that our children will find opportunity and success. We can no longer kick the problem of budget shortage down the street for another generation to address. We simply can’t afford more and more government. Stop spending! Stop spending! Stop spending!
The choices that the next governor faces will be difficult and making the right decision will probably be unpopular at times. We need to unwind this unprecedented growth in our state government. We need a leader who can ignore the special interests who represent those who live at the money troughs of government. We need a leader who has the force of personality to get the job done no matter what. These are the qualities that we need in our next governor. After four years of watching Governor Ted Strickland, there is absolutely no reason to believe that if he were given another four years that he could make these tough choices to get the job done.
I heard a story last week, told by Rep. William Batchelder, about Jim Rhodes, Ohio’s iconic four-term governor who conquered Ohio’s political scene like a force of nature. The story demonstrated Rhodes’ no-nonsense approach and leadership ability.
Rhodes began the last of his four terms as Ohio’s governor in 1979. At some point early in the term, an Ohio banker called Rhodes to tell him he heard a rumor that a Japanese auto manufacturer was looking to open a manufacturing plant in America. That’s all the banker knew: not the name of the company, nor the timetable for this rumored plant. Not much to work from, but it was all Jim Rhodes needed. Taking only two staff members with him he quickly booked a flight and flew to Japan. Upon arrival he met with the Japanese bonding company that purchased millions of dollars of Ohio bonds. Meeting with the management team of the bonding company, he asked them which Japanese car company was the most likely to be considering opening an operation in the U.S. By process of elimination, they suggested to Governor Rhodes that it had to be the Honda Motor Company.
Rhodes and his two man team caught a cab and traveled to the Honda corporate headquarters. Unannounced in advance, Rhodes walked in the front door and to the reception desk. “I’m Jim Rhodes, governor of Ohio and I’m here to see the president of Honda Motors.” The surprised Japanese quickly realized that he was an important American politician and hastily arranged a meeting with Mr. Kiyoshi Kawashima, the president of Honda Motors who had taken over for the founder, Mr. Honda, only a few years earlier. Kawashima didn’t speak English and Rhodes didn’t speak Japanese. (Some would even argue that English was a second language for Rhodes.) Somehow, remarkably, during this meeting through the force of his personality, Jim Rhodes convinced the president of Honda to build the first Japanese car manufacturing company in Ohio. The factory opened in 1982 and is Honda’s oldest auto plant in the United States. This past July the plant, which is located in Marysville, made its 10 millionth vehicle. It has provided jobs for thousands of Ohioans since 1982.
That’s the kind of take-charge personality we need in the governor’s office. Fortunately, we may well have that leadership in John Kasich. Kasich’s personal history includes a number of stories where he demonstrated that same take-no-prisoners, storm-the-hill, who-says-it-can’t–be-done approach to problem solving. Kasich’s obvious skills as a budget balancer is exactly what we need to rein in the runaway state spending that’s left us in this precarious position. He demonstrated that he is a problem solver many times during his eight terms in Congress. He is the kind of leader that Ohio needs in order to deal with the serious mess we are facing. Ted Strickland is a nice guy, but we need someone who can get this difficult job done. Ohio needs John Kasich.
David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at