COLUMBUS, Ohio – A list of the top 10 stories of 2015 from the Ohio Associated Press, as voted on by member newspapers and broadcasters around the state:
1. Marijuana in Ohio faces an uncertain future after the resounding defeat of an ambitious effort to legalize pot for both medical and recreational use in one fell swoop. Voters in November rejected the proposed constitutional amendment, 64 percent to 36 percent. While pre-election polls showed that a majority of Ohioans favor legal marijuana, concerns about possibly creating marijuana monopolies appeared to be a major factor in the defeat of the amendment, which called for 10 growing sites around the state owned by investors. The proposal could be followed in 2016 by a more conventional legalization plan. There’s also talk of legislative action to legalize pot for medical use only.
2. Gov. John Kasich announced he would run for president in 2016, saying “big ideas change the world.” The 63-year-old Republican and former longtime congressman launched his campaign at Ohio State University before a crowd of 2,000 last July. Kasich, who was re-elected to a second term as governor in 2014, has had trouble distinguishing himself amid a crowded GOP field that includes bombastic front-runner Donald Trump. While he’s been polling in the second tier of candidates, Kasich says he’s the only one with experience in three broad areas of political leadership – the federal budget, national security and state government.
3. The Ohio State Buckeyes overcame injuries and took the back door into the final four of the first College Football Playoff, then beat first Alabama and then Oregon to win the national championship, 42-20. Behind third-string quarterback Cardale Jones and running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Buckeyes (14-1) completed a remarkable in-season turnaround with a dominating performance against the Ducks to win the first real national championship game on Jan. 12. Ohio State began the first major college football playoff as the fourth and final seed and faced questions about whether it belonged at all. When the dust cleared in Dallas, there were no more questions.
4. The Ohio Department of Health announced in September that a record number of people in the state died from drug overdoses last year, due in part to abuse of a synthetic painkiller fentanyl, which is far more powerful than heroin. The state said 2,482 people died from accidental overdoses in 2014, an 18 percent increase over the previous year and a reminder of the severity of a heroin abuse problem that has plagued Ohio for more than a decade. Abuse of fentanyl, which is often combined with heroin or sometimes mistaken for it by addicts, was a significant contributor to the increase. Fatal drug overdoses remain the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio, above car crashes, a trend that began in 2007.
5. John Boehner, a native son of Ohio who rose from a township trustee to second in line to succeed the president, resigned as Speaker of the House in September. Boehner, a congressman who represented a southwest Ohio district, announced he was stepping down amid growing discontent among some of the most conservative members of the House Republican conference. Some tea partyers were pushing for a vote to oust Boehner as speaker, a formal challenge that hasn’t happened in more than 100 years. The 66-year-old Boehner said he had planned to resign at the end of the year, anyway, but the turmoil within the party hastened his decision.
Filling out the top 10 Ohio stories, in descending order, are:
– The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a ban on same-sex marriage in a case with a gay Cincinnati man as the lead plaintiff. The 5-4 Supreme Court ruling legalized gay marriage across the country.
– After a decade of false starts, Ohio voters approved new rules for drawing state legislative districts that aim to reduce partisan gerrymandering.
– Ohio put off executions until at least 2017 as the state struggles to obtain supplies of lethal injection drugs, delaying capital punishment for a full two years.
– Record-breaking algae blooms spread across Lake Erie and snaked 600 miles in the Ohio River, despite changes in recent years to reduce farm runoff.
– LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA finals in his first season since returning to Ohio.