Gov. John Kasich will leave his presidential campaign behind for a day to deliver his sixth State of the State speech tonight. And continuing a tradition he began in 2012, he’s once again taken the annual address on the road to a new city. This time he’s in Marietta. And residents of that city - and throughout Ohio - will be listening to what he has to say.
There will be nearly 40 events in and around Marietta involving state lawmakers and other officials in town for the State of the State. And the workers at Marietta’s oldest bar and restaurant are ready for them. “You know, kind of quiet but there’s a lot of buzz going on and excitement for the big event,” said Robert Farley, the general manager of the Harmar Tavern and Spagno’s Italian restaurant, which will be providing food for some of the events. "It’s definitely an exciting event. It’s not very often that the governor comes to Marietta. We’re a very historic town.”
Marietta’s mayor is Joe Matthews. He’s a Democrat but says he’s never voted a straight ticket – and that he likes Kasich. And he hopes those who come in for the speech will walk away with a favorable impression of his town. “We have a fantastic city. We have a lot of great events here every year and this is just another feather in our cap as far as I’m concerned,” said Matthews.
Marietta is the largest community in Washington County, along the Ohio River in southeastern Ohio. The most recent unadjusted unemployment rate in Washington County was 7.8%, quite a bit higher than the state unadjusted rate of 5.6%. Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) said the shale economy helped his area for a while, but he admitted lower energy costs have hurt the industry. So he’s looking forward to hearing Kasich talk about economic issues. “We’ve taken a bit of a step back now, but certainly, it created a wave of enthusiasm and optimism in our part of the state and in my district in particular that is encouraging," said Thompson. "And I think long term, what we want to hear about is how do we benefit and exploit from this resource?”
Kasich is likely to get national attention with this speech since he’s still on the presidential campaign trail. And Democrats have been working to draw attention to Kasich’s economic record, which they say has relied too heavily on tax cuts for the wealthy and has left working families behind. House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) said Kasich should get credit for taking the speech to different areas of the state, and that there are many communities that are examples of how those policies haven't worked. “I think he purposely tries to pick out places that maybe are off the beaten path and haven’t been doing as well to try to draw attention to that, so I’m not actually shocked by that. But more importantly, what I’d like to see is that the policies that we’re doing here actually address those people’s needs and concerns," Strahorn said. "And I don’t think when we shift tax responsibility or don’t invest in our state, I don’t think that helps those communities.”
Marietta was chosen to host the State of the State in part because of its history. It's the oldest permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory – its 228th birthday is Thursday. Kasich’s office said in a statement after selecting Marietta that it was fitting that Ohio’s first city would host the joint session of the House and Senate. It’s also on the border with West Virginia, which holds its presidential primary next month.