Created on Friday, 21 February 2014 Written by JULIE CARR SMYTH, AP Statehouse Correspondent
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald and his running mate plan a series of separate stops around Ohio to present what they're calling "the real state of the state" as Republican Gov. John Kasich readies his annual policy address.
The Democrats' tour addressing Kasich's policies kicks off Saturday with FitzGerald in Cleveland and nearby Medina, which will be the site Monday of Kasich's yearly State of the State address.
Kasich is expected to use the speech to touch on big policy ideas related to education, job training and business development and taxation that he views as beneficial to Ohio's economy. It's the third year in a row he's taken the address outside the state capital.
FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, plans to focus his criticism of Kasich on "Ohio's stalled economy," budget cuts to schools and the state local government fund, and blue-collar job losses at Ormet, an aluminum smelting plant on the Ohio River near Wheeling.
Kasich argues that budget adjustments and tax changes he's championed were necessary to put the state on a solid fiscal footing, pointing to an overall drop in the state's unemployment rate from 9.4 percent the month he took office to 7.2 percent in December.
Kasich has not drawn any GOP challengers in the race. Democrat Larry Ealy also is seeking the office, as is Libertarian Charlie Earl.
FitzGerald also plans a stop Saturday in Columbus, Sunday at Ormet in Hannibal and Monday in Akron.
His running mate Sharen Neuhardt, a Dayton-area lawyer, plans to visit Youngstown, Zanesville, Toledo, Lima and Cincinnati through Monday. Among her topics will be women's health issues, including newly passed abortion restrictions that the 2014 Democratic statewide ticket has identified as a common campaign theme this year.
Republicans say their record of protecting and supporting women's health is strong.
FitzGerald plans to watch Monday night's speech in his hometown of Lakewood, while Neuhardt will watch on her home turf of Dayton.