State Sen. Bob Peterson (R-17th Dist.) said this week he was honored to be elected unanimously by his Ohio state senate colleagues as president pro tem, and that he didn’t think bad blood between President Trump and Gov. John Kasich would have a negative impact on the Buckeye State’s relationship with Washington.
Kasich ran for the GOP presidential nomination last year, feuded with Trump throughout much of the campaign, and refused to serve in an official capacity at the national convention in Cleveland that nominated Trump. Since the election, Trump — who won Ohio in November by about 8 points — has taken some additional digs at Kasich.
But at a Washington event he attended this week, Kasich took a softer stance toward the new president, according to various reports, declining to criticize Trump, saying, “It’s five days. It’s too early. Give him a chance.”
Peterson said any lingering ill will won’t last long.
“It’s going to be fine,” said Peterson in an interview with The (Hillsboro) Times-Gazette. “Ultimately, Ohio matters. It’s in everyone’s best interests to work together.”
Peterson said he was part of the Ohio legislative delegation that attended Trump’s inauguration, and he sensed that “everyone was coming together, at least for the Republican Party.”
Peterson said he and other leaders of the 132nd General Assembly will focus their efforts on job growth, spurring that growth through tax cuts, regulatory reform and better training for Ohio’s workforce. He said infrastructure improvements, high-speed broadband improvements, fighting the drug epidemic and education reforms were other top agenda items.
Peterson said considering Trump’s determination to renegotiate trade deals like NAFTA and to kill the Trans Pacific Partnership, what remains important is “fair trade.”
“Ohio is a state that benefits from trade, but we need fair trade,” said Peterson. “As a farmer, I know the U.S. consumer can’t eat all the food we produce.”
Peterson said he enjoys his working relationship with the Highland County Commissioners, including Shane Wilkin, with whom he said he speaks three or four times a month, as well as Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings, agreeing with remarks Hastings made recently about the importance of regionalism.
“We do need a regional approach,” said Peterson, adding that “the whole region benefits” when a location such as the air park in Wilmington adds jobs.
Peterson has served in the Ohio Senate since 2012. According to biographical information on his senate website, he currently chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee. He served a term in the House of Representatives and previously served14 years as a Fayette County commissioner. He and his wife, Lisa, continue to operate their family farm in Fayette County where they live with their three children, Sarah, Hannah and Todd.
President pro tempore is the number two position in the Senate and serves as temporary president in the absence of the senate president. Peterson’s election to that post means that Highland, Clinton and other surrounding counties are represented in key leadership positions in the state legislature, with Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger representing this region from the 91st District.
Peterson said many of his constituents across the sprawling 17th District – which includes Highland, Clinton, Fayette, Gallia, Jackson, Pike, Ross and parts of Lawrence, Pickaway and Vinton counties – still know him primarily as a farmer, or as “John’s son and Lisa’s husband.”
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.