Karen Kasler

Bureau Chief

Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.

Karen Kasler is a lifelong Ohioan. She grew up in Lancaster, attended Otterbein College in Westerville, and found her professional break at WCBE-FM, Columbus. Karen was selected as a Fellow in the Kiplinger Master's Degree Program for Mid-Career Journalists at Ohio State University in 1994. She worked at WTVN-AM and WBNS-TV, both in Columbus - then followed eight years as afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor for WTAM-AM, Cleveland. Karen followed the demolition and rebuilding of Cleveland Browns Stadium, produced award-winning series on identity theft and the Y2K panic, covered the Republican National Convention in 2000 and the blackout of 2003, and reported annually from the Cleveland National Air Show each year, often going upside down in an aerobatic plane to do it. In 1999, she was a media witness to the execution of Wilford Berry, the first execution since Ohio re-instated capital punishment. Karen frequently reported for ABC Radio News, and in 2002 co-produced an award-winning nationally-distributed documentary on the one-year anniversary of September 11, featuring her interview with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge from the West Wing of the White House.

Since returning to Columbus in 2004, Karen has covered major elections and the controversies surrounding them. She was a moderator for the gubernatorial debate in 2018 and US Senate debates in 2016, 2012, 2010 and 2006. She's also led debates on statewide issues such as drug sentencing, marijuana legalization, redistricting and the collective bargaining law known as Senate Bill 5. Each year she anchors the Bureau's live coverage of the Governor's State of the State, and has led coverage of the inaugurations of the last three governors.

She's produced features for NPR and "Marketplace", and has been interviewed by NPR, the BBC, NBC and stations around the country. She's a regular panelist on ideastream's "The Sound of Ideas", a frequent guest on WOSU-TV’s “Columbus on the Record” and has appeared on WBNS-TV's "Face the State".

Karen has been honored by the Association of Capitol Editors and Reporters, the Cleveland Press Club/Society of Professional Journalists and holds a National Headliner Award. She's won several awards from the Ohio AP, and is a four-time winner of the AP's Best Broadcast Writing award. She's a three-time Emmy nominee for "The State of Ohio". She's a past president of the Ohio Associated Press and has served on the Board of Directors for the Central Ohio Society of Professional Journalists. Karen is also a former adjunct professor at Capital University in Columbus.

Karen, her husband and their son Jack live on Columbus' northeast side.

Orange barrels and a sign mark road construction on the I-270 outerbelt in Columbus.
Karen Kasler

The $8 billion state transportation budget goes to the floor of the Ohio House tomorrow, after it was overwhelmingly approved by a House committee Wednesday.

Samuel Hunter, Pam White, Leah Hunter and Zachary Hunter were first in line on the west side of Nationwide Arena.
Karen Kasler

New rules on mass gatherings signed yesterday mean indoor sports venues can be up to 25% capacity starting immediately. Last night, Ohio’s major league professional hockey team went back to the ice in front of fans for the first time since last March.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Ohio’s Democratic senior US Senator says he’s confident the minimum wage will be raised quickly and substantially, even though a provision to hike it to $15 an hour won’t be included in the latest $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill.

Dan Konik

Filings for unemployment benefits had been slowly ticking up in January. But the last two weeks of reported numbers show an explosion of claims. And the state’s job and family services agency is now flagging tens of thousands of claims filed in those last two weeks.

Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) holds a briefing with reporters after session on September 1, 2020.
Karen Kasler

The House is looking over a bill passed by Senators that would pull back on Gov. Mike DeWine’s power to issue health orders – by allowing lawmakers to take a bigger role. The House leader is interested in the plan, which DeWine has threatened to veto.

Kiselev Andrey Valerevich/shutterstock.com

The nursing home COVID-19 death toll jumped by nearly 1,300 in the last week, as the Ohio Department of Health added in 4,000 unaccounted-for deaths to the state’s running total. But with lower overall statewide case numbers and vaccines, visits to nursing homes are allowed and even being encouraged.

A line outside the Mid-Ohio Food Bank in Grove City near Columbus in November.
Karen Kasler

Unemployment and financial problems from the pandemic have brought millions of people to food banks, which are serving 150,000 more Ohioans per month than they were a year ago. That’s putting a strain on the system that supports those people in need.

The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, where executions are performed.
Dan Konik

For the sixth time in a decade, a Democratic state lawmaker has proposed a bill to end the death penalty in Ohio. But this time the measure has significant Republican support.

Jane Timken poses with Donald Trump, now the former president, in an undated photo on her campaign website.

The contest for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate is now a real race, now that the former chair of the Ohio Republican Party has done as many expected and jumped into the race. It’s shaping up to be a battle over which candidate can tie themselves more closely to former president Donald Trump.

: Lordstown Motors General Counsel Thomas Canepa speaks, as Rep. Mike Loychik (R-Bazetta), Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem) and Chris Kerzich, Director of Government Relations and Corporate Affairs for Lordstown Motors, look on.
Karen Kasler

The electric truck manufacturer that took over the shuttered Lordstown General Motors plant near Youngstown wants a change in state law to help it sell vehicles in Ohio. This could set up a clash with the state’s car dealerships.

Gov. Mike DeWine, at a press conference in his home in January 2021.
Office of Gov. Mike DeWine

Gov. Mike DeWine says while Ohio’s COVID numbers are trending in the right direction, the pandemic isn’t over. So he’s warning that he will veto a bill that would pull back on some of his power to issue health orders if state lawmakers send it to him - as he did last year.

The hallway of Westland High School in Columbus, before the pandemic
Karen Kasler

State lawmakers are once again looking over a bipartisan school funding formula. It would calculate a district’s state money with a formula of 60% property tax values and 40% income tax. But this version of the overhaul includes what may be a problematic way to pay for it.

Former state treasurer Josh Mandel
Provided by Mandel campaign

Ohio Republicans have their first official candidate for the 2022 US Senate race.  Former state treasurer Josh Mandel is launching his third try at that office.

In 2019, backups happened often at I-270 and I-670 in Columbus, where ODOT was redesigning the merge of those freeways.
Karen Kasler

State lawmakers got their first look at the budget for Ohio Department of Transportation – which reflects the hike in the gas tax by 10.5 cents two years ago and the impact of less driving during the pandemic.

Dan Konik

134,000 gig workers, independent contractors and self-employed Ohioans who have been waiting on their unemployment claims for more than a month will now get paid.

Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) talked to reporters on September 1, 2020, after returning to the House for the first time since his July arrest in a $61 million bribery scheme.
Karen Kasler

There’s another plea deal in the federal corruption case involving Republican former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford), the former chair of the Ohio Republican Party and a utility widely believed to be FirstEnergy. That case has been called the largest bribery scandal in state history.

Office of Budget and Management Director Kim Murnieks testified before the House Finance Commitee on February 4, 2021.
Karen Kasler

State lawmakers are getting two different forecasts on how much tax revenue will come in over the next two year budget cycle from their experts and from the state budget director, who presented Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed spending plan to them today.

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Kim Henderson, in a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday, February 3, 2020.

Fraud in the state’s unemployment system cost Ohio more than  $330 million in just the last three months of last year. And there could still be fraud among more than a quarter of a million claims flagged this summer.

Signs reading "We're all in this together" decorate the windows of a nursing home facility in northeast Columbus.
Karen Kasler

More than half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths coming from nursing homes. So those and other long term care facilities are getting a lot of attention in the new state budget.

Rishanne and Doug Golden both testified in support of SB 22. They put up a billboard featuring their daughter's Haleigh's picture in 2020, in which they hoped to call attention to their concerns about vaccines.
Rishanne Golden/Facebook

Nearly two hundred people offered testimony in an Ohio Senate committee in support of a Republican-backed bill that would allow a panel of lawmakers to reject a health order from the governor, and to limit states of emergency to 30 days.

A map showing the results of the 2020 presidential vote in Ohio. Donald Trump beat Joe Biden by more than 8 points, almost the same margin he won the state by in 2016.

Part of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed budget involves spending $50 million dollars to lure new residents and businesses to Ohio, and to convince native Ohioans to return home.

Dan Konik

The increase in Ohio Medicaid caseloads could have blown a hole in the new two-year state budget. But the spending plan includes a huge infusion of federal cash for the state’s largest part of the budget, the health insurance program for the poor.

Though he had campaigned for former President Trump's re-election, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) attended President Biden's inauguration and said he'll work with his administration.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is among the 10 Republican Senators who met with President Biden to talk about their COVID relief packages, though the Republicans' plan is a third the size of the one Democrats want. But Portman is hoping for more talks on those dueling deals.

A closed sign on a Columbus area business
Karen Kasler

The number of jobless claims reported this week in Ohio was the highest since last spring, and more than a quarter of a million Ohioans are still out of work. While that’s half of the number at the height of the pandemic, experts say the economy is still struggling.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) shakes hands with U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-04, Urbana) in 2019.
Rob Portman, Official Campaign Facebook Page

A big development in the upcoming race for US Senate in 2022, with Republican incumbent Rob Portman saying he's no longer running. One high profile possible candidate is out.

Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) in a November 2019 press conference with Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson). In 2020, the two sponsored Senate Bill 311 on business shutdowns, which Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed.
Ohio Senate

State lawmakers are starting their new session with an issue that dominated much of last year – the governor’s power to issue health orders that legislators might not like.

The Public Utilities Commission, meeting publicly in 2016.
Statehouse News Bureau

The $61 million bribery scandal involving Ohio's nuclear plant bailout law and a utility widely believed to be FirstEnergy has brought new attention to the commission that regulates utilities. The chair of the Public Utilities Commission resigned in November after an FBI raid on his home.

1.7 million 1099-G tax forms will be mailed this month to Ohioans who got unemployment benefits – and to some that didn’t but are the victims of fraudulent claims. And Ohio's attorney general is concerned about that.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers explains a flow chart during a press conference on the charges against Speaker Larry Householder and others in July 2020.
Dan Konik

The U.S. Attorney in charge of investigations into both a $61 million bribery scandal involving the former Ohio House Speaker and corruption on Cincinnati City Council will be leaving that job. But Ohio’s senior U.S. Senator says those aren’t reasons to keep him in that office.

Ohio Highway Patrol troopers and Ohio National Guard personnel were at the Ohio Statehouse starting this weekend and continuing through Wednesday.
Karen Kasler

On this inauguration day, security remains high at the Ohio Statehouse after preparations for a weekend armed march that never fully materialized. They included a stepped-up increase of law enforcement and limited access to the building.