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Like Other Governors, Kasich Says He’s In Charge Even While On The Campaign Trail

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor

Running for president is a marathon of rallies, town halls and speeches, and it means a lot of time away from home. And for John Kasich, it also means a lot of time away from the governor’s office, which leads some to wonder who’s doing that job when he’s not in. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler examines that question.

Ever since Governor John Kasich made his presidential campaign official in July, and even before that, when he spending days in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and other states, and when he was on the Sunday morning talk shows nearly every weekend, a question has been coming up. And it’s not just being raised by Ohioans, since there are four sitting Republican governors running for president. That question - who is running the state when the governor isn’t here? Last week, at his first in person news conference in his role as governor in more than a month, Kasich said the answer to who is in charge when he’s not here is simple: “Me.” He adds, “There’s these things called ‘telephones’, ‘cell phones’. And I’m constantly working with all the staff, and I’m back here.”

But with four sitting governors running for president, Ohioans aren’t the only ones asking ‘who is the state’s chief executive?’ when the one who was elected to that position is on the campaign trail. “That question comes up a lot in Wisconsin,” says Shawn Johnson, the Capitol Reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio. Gov. Scott Walker made his official presidential announcement the week before Kasich did – but like Kasich, he’d spent a lot of time on the road before that. So Johnson says Walker has heard the question of who is in charge when he’s not around before. “When you ask the governor, he says he is. He says that with modern technology, it’s no longer as important to physically be at the Capitol, that he can keep in touch with his staff and legislative leaders by phone, by text messages, by e-mail, all while he’s on the road. Because we’re run by Republicans at all levels of state government, leaders there typically agree with the governor and they say it’s no big deal.”

But Johnson says Democrats, who’s had many public battles with Walker, have also criticized him as an absentee governor. Ohio’s Democrats have made similar statements as they’ve blasted Kasich mostly on policy issues, such as charter schools and job creation.

Other than Treasurer Josh Mandel, who’s endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Ohio’s Republican officeholders have been very supportive of Kasich’s presidential campaign. Senate President Keith Faber, Attorney General Mike DeWine, Auditor David Yost and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor are all co-chairs of Kasich’s Ohio campaign team. Secretary of State Jon Husted says he supports Kasich but, as Ohio’s elections chief, he can’t play an official role in Kasich’s campaign. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger hasn’t officially endorsed any presidential candidate. But Rosenberger worked for former President George W. Bush, the brother of current candidate Jeb Bush. 

Some have wondered if Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor is actually the chief executive when Kasich’s out of state – especially since she seems to be appearing at more public events than she did in Kasich’s first term. But at a ribbon cutting at a distribution facility west of Columbus last month, Taylor said her duties haven’t changed much since Kasich launched his bid for president. “The governor and I have always switched back and forth between events depending on what our schedules look like,” Taylor said. And Taylor says the administration continues to stay in touch with legislative leaders when Kasich is not home.

And like Kasich and Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is dealing with state lawmakers in leadership who are Republicans. But in New Jersey, where Democrats run the legislature, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has full gubernatorial authority when Chris Christie is campaigning. In fact, last month when Christie was in Cleveland for the GOP candidates’ debate, she signed several bills and for the first time, used her veto power to reject one.

The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.
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