COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Gov. John Kasich said running the state remains his top priority even as he campaigns elsewhere for the Republican presidential nomination.
“We don’t sacrifice anything here for, you know, for anything else that might be down the road,” Kasich told reporters after opening the Ohio State Fair on Wednesday.
The governor has made recent campaign visits to Iowa, South Carolina, Michigan and New Hampshire since announcing his White House bid last week. But he said he remains “constantly in touch” while he’s out of town.
“It’s not like I’m going to be away all the time – it just doesn’t work that way,” Kasich told reporters. “You go in and out of places and have an ability to get home, because when I’m home, that’s what I like the best.”
Kasich joined his wife and twin daughters in cutting the ribbon to start the annual fair in Columbus. The governor spoke briefly to fairgoers at the opening ceremony.
“I don’t want to hold things up, because nobody wants to hear a bunch of politicians talking here at the fair when we can get in there and start enjoying it,” he said.
Kasich then did just that.
The governor toured the fairgrounds for about three hours, stopping to chat with members of his Cabinet and fair attendees. He awarded prizes to young artists, ate chocolate ice cream, visited a butterfly exhibit and posed for selfies.
He also checked out the fair’s display of butter sculptures, featuring depictions of Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer and Buckeyes mascot Brutus, along with the traditional butter cow and calf.
Kasich joked with his daughter Reese about whose likeness he’d like to see created out of butter. “We want to have your mother be the butter cow next year,” he told her.
The governor was greeted by a new animatronic Smokey Bear, with arms and a head and mouth that moves. The fire prevention icon has welcomed visitors by name since 1959.
“I understand you’re very busy these days,” Smokey told the governor.
“But not too busy to come and see you,” Kasich replied.
The new Smokey Bear is among several changes that visitors will see this year at the fair.
The state canceled all poultry shows as part of an effort to protect Ohio’s $2.3 billion poultry industry from a deadly bird flu virus. State fair officials also announced earlier this month that fair vendors won’t be permitted to sell Confederate flag merchandise.
The fair runs through Aug 9.