MARIETTA - Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and local officials recently questioned whether a John Kasich administration would be good for Appalachia.
In response, the Republican gubernatorial candidate's supporters questioned whether a Strickland administration has really benefited the region.
In response to remarks made by state Auditor Mary Taylor, Kasich's running mate, at the Oct. 1 Eastern Ohio Development Alliance's Gubernatorial and Senatorial Forum, Strickland held a teleconference last week with Democratic officials and candidates, including Marietta Mayor Michael Mullen and state Rep. Jennifer Garrison, D-Marietta.
In Congress, "Kasich was an enemy of the Appalachian Regional Commission," Strickland said.
A release issued after the teleconference said Kasich supported a budget proposal in 1993 that would have frozen funding to the ARC and one in 1995 that would have eliminated it. The release says Taylor was asked whether the Kasich campaign had rethought its stance on the ARC and she answered by saying the campaign had not taken a position on it.
"Not to have taken a position on a job creation vehicle like the ARC ... I think is, quite frankly, reckless for not learning more about it," Garrison said.
The ARC is a federal-state partnership aimed at improving job opportunities, infrastructure and economic competitiveness in the Appalachian region. It covers parts of 13 states. In the call, Strickland noted the benefits of its funding for roads, sewer and water systems and schools.
ARC money locally has provided funding for Marietta College's physician assistant program, technology and renovations at Marietta Memorial Hospital, sewer and water facilities and infrastructure around the county and Marietta's armory renovation project.
"Without good sewer and road systems and health care and education, we really are working at a deficit in Appalachia," Mullen said.
Although the ARC is a federal entity whose funding Ohio's governor would not be voting on, Strickland said Kasich's failure to support it calls into question his commitment to the Appalachian region.
"I think that means that a Kasich administration would possibly not fund the governor's office on Appalachia," Strickland said.
But a Kasich spokesman said the candidate and Taylor believe every state program should come under the microscope when it comes to fixing the state's projected $8 billion biennial budget shortfall, which is why they have "made no promises on specific programs."
"These attacks are just more of Ted Strickland's attempt to distract from his failures," Rob Nichols, the campaign's press secretary, said in an e-mail.
Nichols also said Strickland's support of President Barack Obama's energy policies are hostile to Appalachia's coal-mining industry.
Speaking at a campaign event Monday at the Washington County Republican headquarters in Marietta, state Sen. Jimmy Stewart, R-Athens, said asking about Kasich's concern for Appalachia is "a fair question." However, he pointed out that Kasich's congressional district did not include Appalachia.
"I'm sure that he represented his district as any congressman should," Stewart said.
Stewart also suggested Strickland's tenure as governor hasn't been a boon for Appalachia, noting that the governor's school funding proposals initially included bigger increases for urban school districts than those in Appalachia.
Stewart joined 93rd House District candidate Andy Thompson and local businessman Jeff Hollister to support Kasich's economic development proposals and criticize Strickland's track record on the subject.