At a campaign stop in Wilmington Wednesday morning, remarks from Ohio gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville) focused on Ohio’s drug problem, education and workforce development.
DeWine is one of four Republican candidates seeking the party nomination in the Ohio Republican primary in 2018, including Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, Secretary of State Jon Husted and U.S. Representative Jim Renacci.
The governor’s seat will be open in the 2018 General Election as John Kasich finishes his second term as governor.
At Kava Haus, a locally owned Wilmington coffee shop, DeWine was joined by his wife Fran and Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) who endorsed DeWine for the governor’s office. Wednesday was the third day of a three-day campaign trip for DeWine.
Before he spoke about the opioid crisis and about what DeWine sees as a need to focus on all aspects of education to better prepare a “New Economy” workforce, the current Ohio attorney general talked about the state’s assets, which he said include the cost of living compared to the East and West coasts, an abundance of water, a Midwest work ethic, a central location in the United States, and the presence of natural gas.
During a question-and-answer period, Highland County Engineer P. Dean Otworth asked about transportation funding, citing concerns about the future of local and statewide infrastructure.
DeWine acknowledged he had no specific solutions Wednesday, adding however that he is fully aware of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s numbers which, he said, are not promising in a few years.
After the event, Otworth told The Times-Gazette he feels infrastructure is often overlooked and should be a focal point of the next administration.
“I believe Mike to be one of the strongest candidates,” Otworth said. “He has a very good possibility of being our next governor… I was just wanting to more or less get that on his radar.”
Otworth serves as county co-chair of DeWine’s campaign with Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley.
Highland County Republican Chair Paulette Donley and Hillsboro City Council member Dick Donley were also in attendance at the event.
Afterward, Dick Donley told The Times-Gazette, “Mike spoke to the issues here in southern Ohio, the drug epidemic, jobs and schools. All the things that are a priority here and across the state.”
Paulette Donley declined to comment, but said previously that as county chair she is remaining neutral in the governor’s race.
In other topics, DeWine said he believes a governor’s job is to create a pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-small business climate in the state, but he feels he can’t talk about jobs without talking about education and the ongoing drug problem.
In traveling the state, DeWine said business people tell him they can’t expand their companies because they have trouble finding job applicants who can pass a drug test or who have the requisite skills.
DeWine received his loudest applause of the campaign stop when he said, “We’ve got to get in front of the drug problem.”
DeWine emphasized preventing drug addiction in the first place. If society is serious about drug prevention, he said, then people need to arm kids with what they need so they can resist drugs.
A school superintendent told him that dealing with the drug problem does not count on the state report card and the state doesn’t provide money to the schools to address drug use, he noted.
On the matter of workforce development and education, DeWine twice said Ohio needs to do better.
Forty-some percent of Ohio adults have a four-year or a two-year college degree, a certificate for industry credentials, or an apprenticeship, he said.
“I don’t think we’re doing enough, frankly, to bring that up. For us to be a part of the new economy and see our state grow, we’ve got to do this,” said DeWine.
One way to do that, he said, is to form a much closer working relationship between the business community with two-year colleges and local career centers.
DeWine suggested the number of at-risk children growing up in difficult circumstances or in dysfunctional homes is growing. The good news, he said, is that today there are models for what yields good schools — models of schools that can make a difference in children’s lives.
The candidate told supporters assembled at the Kava Haus he has not made any commitment on what he would propose as government expenditures, adding he has looked at the next budget and it’s not going to be easy to craft.
But he said one area where Ohio will “simply have to do more” is Children Protective Services in which half of the children in foster care statewide have at least one parent addicted to drugs. The state ranks almost at the bottom for what it spends on child protective services, he said, and moreover, half the counties don’t have local levies to provide funding support.
“I don’t know how they get by,” DeWine said.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768, and David Wright at 937-402-2570.