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Ohio House Approves Moving State of the State Speech to Lima

Last year the idea of moving it to an elementary school in Steubenville on the eastern border with West Virginia was almost revolutionary. But Republican Rep. Matt Huffman of Lima liked it so much, he had suggested holding it in his district in the future. And the governor apparently agreed – proposing to ask lawmakers to travel to Lima this year.

HUFFMAN: “I hope this is a tradition that continues and that this event will go certainly beyond Gov. Kasich’s terms in office.”

But as he did last year, Democrat Ron Gerberry of Canfield, near Youngstown, argued that moving the State of the State away from the Capitol destroys the historical significance of the speech and demeans its importance.

GERBERRY: “And now what we’ve done is to take one last tradition and we’ve turned it into a political event.”

But Gerberry wasn’t able to convince some lawmakers who had blasted the move of the speech last year – such as Republican Lynn Wachtmann of Napoleon in northwest Ohio.

WACHTMANN: “This is an eating of crow, Mr. Speaker.”

Wachtmann said he was surprised at the positive reception the speech got at its remote location, so he now supports the move. And Democrat Bob Hagan made the surprising move to agree with Wachtmann.

HAGAN: “If in fact he will support next year having the governor come to Youngstown, because I can build a wonderful stage over an injection well.”

Hagan said the idea of bringing government to his district is a bigger deal than the tradition of holding the speech at the Statehouse, and he said he doesn’t quibble with the claim that the State of the State is a political speech – but that it is political no matter where it is delivered.

Democrat John Carney of Columbus supported the move, but wondered why the speech was moved to 6:30 p.m. Huffman said it’s because the governor and his cabinet will spend the entire day in Lima before the speech that evening.

While there were reports that lawmakers and staffers grumbled at the move of the speech last year, support for the move was even greater this time around. Eighty lawmakers approved holding the State of the State in Lima, compared to 52 last year.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.