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Gov. Kasich Discusses Redistricting, Amazon And Drug Distributors At Forum

Ohio Gov. John Kasich
Gage Skidmore

At an Associated Press political forum on Thursday, Gov. John Kasich covered a lot of ground, talking about jobs, the economy, the opioid crisis and his future plans. For now, he says he’s willing to step in to help Republican lawmakers and citizens’ groups work out a deal on Ohio’s Congressional map-drawing process.

Redistricting Intervention

Hours before talks broke down on Thursday night, Kasich said that any plan must have minority party input. But he suggested the citizens’ groups opposing the lawmakers’ plan may be just trying to turn out voters for their November ballot issue.

“If these districts are not more competitive, then you either go hard right or hard left and we all lose in the end," Kasich said. "So hopefully, they will work something out here, and the outside forces won’t win because I think some of them want to block any success here.”

The Republican plan, proposed by state Sen. Matt Huffman, did require some participation from the minority party – but Democrats said the result would be racially discriminatory. The Fair Districts Fair Elections coalition has criticized Huffman’s plan for failing to address gerrymandering and for failing to keep communities together.

Kasich also said he’d be willing to convene a meeting between lawmakers and the citizens’ groups if asked.

As of Thursday, the U.S. House canceled “if needed” sessions scheduled for the end of the week, meaning any redistricting deal wouldn’t appear before Kasich until next week. That means time is especially tight for any compromise: Lawmakers must pass a plan by next Wednesday if they want it to appear on a May ballot.

Courting Companies

Kasich said didn’t predict Columbus would get Amazon’s second headquarters. But he did say FoxConn is likely to pick Ohio, though he was critical of the deal the iPhone maker made with Wisconsin.

“It’s just a mess up there in terms of how they have operated, and we just don’t go and throw money at stuff,” Kasich said. “And we will not do it as long as I’m around.”

It’s not clear what, if any, incentives Ohio added to Columbus’ bid for Amazon. But the city itself submitted a generous package of tax abatements and investment promises. Cleveland and Cincinnati, which also submitted bids, were not ranked as finalists.

New Drug Rules

While fentanyl deaths are way up, Kasich said prescription opioid fatalities are at a six-year low – and added that new rules are coming from the state on drug distributors.

“There should be no confusion or – there’s got to be total clarity when it comes to where you sell,” Kasich said. “The problem you have is when distributors, when numbers of them sell, they don’t coordinate.”

Kasich planned an announcement Thursday with the head of the state pharmacy board about new industry regulations.

Drug distributors are under pressure to take a stronger role in the country's fight against the ongoing opioid epidemic. Multiple lawsuits have accused distributors of not doing enough to monitor suspicious orders of painkillers.

Distributors have said they don't believe legal action is the answer but have pledged to help solve the crisis.

Kasich 2020?

Finally, despite increasing speculation that he might mount a challenge to President Trump in the 2020 election, Kasich said he doesn’t know if he’ll run for president again. So what will he do after he leaves the governor’s office this year?

“The Lord will decide,” Kasich said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.