Before hundreds gathered at the Ohio Statehouse on Monday, Republican Mike DeWine in his first public address as Ohio governor struck chords of optimism and unity.
“We are united in our passion and commitment to ensuring that all of our children lead meaningful, fulfilling lives. We are united in our resolve to end this horrible opioid epidemic. We are united in our desire to preserve and protect our magnificent Lake Erie. And we are united in our love for and our pride in this wonderful state, with its rich history, abundant natural wonders and good and decent people,” DeWine said. “I will be governor for all the people of the state of Ohio and I’ll remember each and every day that I am their servant.”
He pledged to invest in programs to help at-risk children and work in partnership with local governments.
“For much of what we will do, we will not see the results during the life of this administration, nor in some cases in our lifetime, yet we will do these things nonetheless, grounded in the faith and grounded in the hope that we can change the future,” he said.
Also sworn in Sunday was Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, a University of Dayton graduate and former Kettering lawmaker.
Attending the festivities were former governors Dick Celeste, Bob Taft, Ted Strickland and John Kasich as well as the current Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, Puerto Rico Lt. Gov. Rivera Marin and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.
The DeWine children and grandchildren played starring roles in the ceremonies: Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine administered the oath, more than a dozen grandkids led the Pledge of Allegiance, and his daughter Anna Bolton and granddauther Izzy Darling introduced him. Fran DeWine, his wife of 51 years, held the family Bibles.
“She is the love of my life. She is the rock of our family. She is my best friend,” Mike DeWine said of Fran during his inaugural address. He said he would not be governor without her.
The new governor became emotional when talking of the absence of his daughter Becky, who was killed in an auto accident age age 22 in 1993.
DeWine, 72, was officially sworn in shortly after midnight at his home in Cedarville, becoming the first governor from the Miami Valley in nearly 100 years and the only one from Greene County in Ohio history. He immediately signed a half-dozen executive orders, setting up protections against discrimination and establishing his initiatives on children and drug addiction recovery.
With more than four decades in public office, DeWine has said he prepared his entire life for the job of governor. He started off as Greene County prosecutor and then Ohio state senator, U.S. representative, lieutenant governor, U.S. senator and then state attorney general.
For Our Future Ohio, a coalition of labor unions, issued a statement Monday, saying they would hold DeWine to his promises, including preserving expanded Medicaid, maintaining protections for Ohioans with pre-existing medical conditions, keeping the anti-union right-to-work off the agenda and standing up to President Trump when merited.
And Iris Harvey of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio issued a statement that said in part: “Gov. Mike DeWine is recognized as one of the most extreme anti-abortion politicians in the country. Reproductive rights supporters are ready to hold him accountable and ensure that high quality health care and education like the services provided by Planned Parenthood are protected for the tens of thousands of Ohioans who rely on them to live healthy, full lives.”
DeWine said during his first debate against Democrat Richard Cordray that he would be willing to sign a bill to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks gestation.
Cedarville University political scientist Kevin Sims said DeWine has demonstrated a strong relationship with the ‘pro-life’ community. “I do think the Legislature will bring that (heartbeat ban bill) back up and I think the governor will sign it,” he said.
State Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, said in a written statement that she is encouraged by DeWine executive orders to protect Ohioans against discrimination.
“I applaud the governor for getting to work immediately and doing his part to better protect people from discrimination and addiction. Though we have no shortage of challenges ahead of us, we have a unique opportunity to put differences aside and work together to give all Ohioans the chance for a better life in our state,” she said.
DeWine will face immediate challenges, including proposing a two-year operating budget by March 15; determining how to fund future road and bridge projects; continuing to work on the opioid addiction crisis that claimed 4,800 Ohioans last year; and delivering on his campaign promises to work with local governments and expand early childhood education for at-risk kids.