By KANTELE FRANKO
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — New Republican Gov. Mike DeWine touted optimism as he began his four-year term Monday, vowing to hear others’ ideas and perspectives and to lead with resolve to create a better future for Ohio’s children, a priority reflected in executive orders he signed in his first moments on the job.
Taking office as Ohio’s 70th governor in a Statehouse inauguration, the former U.S. senator emphasized the importance of family, education, and planting seeds of change that might take years or generations to flourish.
“Everyone, no matter where they were born or who their parents are, deserves the chance to succeed, to get a good-paying job, to raise a family comfortably, and to be secure in their future,” he told the audience of friends and supporters, including members of his large family.
DeWine was initially sworn in just after midnight in a ceremony at home in Cedarville, where he took his oath with one hand on a tall stack of family Bibles held by his wife of 51 years, Fran. Their son, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine, administered the oath at both ceremonies.
DeWine and new Lt. Gov Jon Husted, who also was inaugurated Monday, led a GOP sweep of nonjudicial statewide offices in November after getting campaign help from President Donald Trump, who rallied with Republican candidates in Cleveland on the eve of the election, and term-limited Gov. John Kasich, a frequent Trump critic.
DeWine defeated Democrat Richard Cordray to succeed Kasich, a potential 2020 presidential challenger who attended the inauguration along with former Govs. Ted Strickland, Bob Taft and Richard Celeste.
At 72, DeWine is the oldest person elected Ohio governor. He is among the state’s most well-known politicians after serving in elected office for four decades, including as a state lawmaker, congressman, lieutenant governor and, most recently, state attorney general.
Compared with his predecessor, DeWine has expressed willingness to embrace some more conservative policies, including indicating he would sign the so-called heartbeat bill, which would be one of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the country but was twice vetoed by Kasich.
The first executive orders DeWine signed include one to ban discrimination in state personnel decisions on the basis of gender identity, pregnancy or being a foster parent, among other categories. Other orders focused on children’s services and substance abuse recovery initiatives and inclusivity of individuals with disabilities in state hiring.
He vowed during his inaugural address to serve Ohio residents with an “an eye to the future and with great optimism.”
One sign of that optimism, perhaps: A nod to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a fellow Republican who was in the audience, about dealing with the problematic Brent Spence Bridge, the 57-year-old Ohio River span in Cincinnati that the federal government has labeled obsolete.
“We have a little bridge that we need to build, right governor?” DeWine said. “We’re going to do it.”