COLUMBUS — Republican John Kasich has spent much of his time since dropping a 2016 bid for president mulling big ideas — on party, politics, civility, faith and the future of the nation.
On Tuesday, Kasich delivers a final State of the State speech as Ohio’s governor that he says will be “very odd.” By that, he appears to mean absent of the usual litany of new policy initiatives and leaning toward the philosophical.
“I’ve been kind of thinking about it. It’s different,” Kasich, 65, told reporters last week.
Playing with expectations for the speech is nothing new for Kasich, who leaves office next year due to term limits and hasn’t ruled out a 2020 presidential bid.
After his first speech at the Ohio Statehouse in 2011 was interrupted by union-rights protesters, he became the first governor in modern Ohio history to take the address out of Columbus. That second speech took place in the Democratic stronghold of Steubenville, another surprise from a Republican governor. He rambled off script in a 100-minute stream of consciousness.
Since then, he’s reined in, and fine-tuned, the speech.
He’s also added a public lottery for some tickets and started an annual tradition of taking the state government show on the road to the hosting city. Lawmakers and members of his Cabinet descend to stage events that show off the locale, tout policy initiatives and connect with local officials. Prior host cities have included Lima, Medina, Wilmington, Marietta and Sandusky.
This year, Kasich is coming home. He will deliver the address not only in Westerville, where he lives, but at Otterbein University, where he launched his campaign for governor in 2009.
And the nostalgia doesn’t end there. Kasich said he wrote the bulk of the speech sitting in a secluded spot at Tommy’s, the iconic pizzeria on the Ohio State University campus where he first fell in love with politics.
“I like to go there. I sit in the back. They give me my little pizza and I write,” he said.
He hinted at the theme in a Monday tweet: “I’ll talk about the values that have guided our Administration for the past eight years. They’re values that can bring us together to guide Ohio — and each of us — going forward.”
Over the past year, Kasich and Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper have worked together with a group of Democratic, Republican and independent governors to develop solutions to major policy questions — including on health care, immigration and guns — that they say are acceptable to both parties. Kasich has said his goal after leaving office is to remain “a part of the conversation” nationally.
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