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Published: Thursday, 4/7/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Governor's dismal ratings prompt lawmakers to seek recall of Kasich

Reps. Mike Foley (D., Cleveland), left, and Bob Hagan (D., Youngstown) propose allowing Ohio voters to recall officials. Reps. Mike Foley (D., Cleveland), left, and Bob Hagan (D., Youngstown) propose allowing Ohio voters to recall officials.

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich's low approval rating had a pair of Democratic lawmakers Wednesday calling for an opportunity for voters to demonstrate buyer's remorse by recalling the man they just elected.

Reps. Mike Foley (D., Cleveland) and Bob Hagan (D., Youngstown) proposed legislation to make Ohio the 20th state to allow voters to go back to the ballot to remove and replace state officials, among them the governor and legislators.

"A four-year term sometimes begs the question that you're secure," Mr. Hagan said. "If you look at some of the senators in their second terms, they kind of take it easy. … I don't think it's a legitimate question that it will put them in fear of trying something different."

Recall supporters, however, shouldn't hold their breaths for a vote in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

"I think it's fair to say that it needs a lot of study," said House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina).

A fallback option could be a petition effort to write the power of recall into the Ohio Constitution by collecting almost 400,000 signatures of registered voters.

"People want to know, if they can do it in Wisconsin, why can't we do it in Ohio?" Mr. Foley said.

A number of Wisconsin lawmakers who supported that state's crackdown on public employee collective bargaining rights are targets of recall efforts. There is also talk of going after GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

The push by Mr. Kasich and fellow Republicans in Ohio to rein in the collective bargaining power of public employees has brought thousands of protesters to the Statehouse. The budget debate, in which K-12 schools, local governments, colleges, libraries, and social services face cuts, has started to do the same.

A Quinnipiac Poll released two weeks ago put Mr. Kasich's voter approval rating at 30 percent just two months into his job.

Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, has a voter approval rating of just 30 percent, according to a recent Quinnipiac Poll. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, has a voter approval rating of just 30 percent, according to a recent Quinnipiac Poll.

"There's a lot of politics going on," Mr. Kasich said. "My whole purpose is to fix this state. When you look at what we did over the period of the last 90 days, it's pretty remarkable. Lots of changes … That's where my focus is. I don't care about a lot of the other political things that go on. We have to spend our time trying to figure out how to get the state on the right track."

His spokesman, Rob Nichols, called the proposal "gutter politics" and "borderline absurd."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states provide for ballot recall of state officials. Only eight, however, require that some misconduct be stated as a reason for the recall.

Michigan, which does not require specific grounds for removal, is the only recall state bordering Ohio. In 2008, recall was unsuccessfully used there against then-House Speaker Andy Dillon, a Detroit-area Democrat who is now state treasurer.

At least 29 states, including Ohio, provide for recall of local officials. Ohio's local recall authority comes through state law.

The highest-profile recall of any governor occurred in 2003 when Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger muscled in on California's Democratic governor, Gray Davis, in the wake of budget deficits, proposed tax hikes, and soaring electricity prices.

In Ohio, a local recall effort targeted Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner two years ago, but the question failed to reach the ballot. In Florida, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez was recalled after a backlash over a local property tax increase that was used, in part, to raise the pay of unionized city employees.

Under Wednesday's proposal, a recall election could be initiated via petitions containing signatures equaling at least 15 percent of the votes cast for that office in the last election. In Mr. Kasich's case, that would be more than 577,870 signatures. Voters would be asked two questions: Do they want to recall that official and who would be the replacement if the answer to the first is "yes?''

Ohio's constitution does provide voters with the authority to directly propose or repeal legislation and amend the constitution via the ballot box. Ohio State University political science professor Paul Beck, who teaches a class examining direct democracy, said it's unusual for a state that has initiative and referendum to not also provide recall.

"That bundle was part of the progressive movement's legislative agenda, and they tended to get adopted together," he said. "Ohio is a more traditional state. States that had powerful party organizations were very good at resisting the progressive movement [of the early 20th centuries]. Illinois was one of them. Indiana was. A third was Ohio. Most eastern states don't have initiative and referendum."

Mr. Batchelder said recall was debated at length along with initiative and referendum during Ohio's 1912 constitutional convention, but it didn't make the cut.

"1912 was the height of the progressive era, and yet you see the debate, and it was rejected by the Ohio constitutional convention," he said. "Basically, their thinking was that once people had been elected, that should be what there is to do."

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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