The Columbus Dispatch - - Morn­ingstarters -

Dewine will crown his ca­reer as Ohio’s CEO with an in­au­gu­ral cer­e­mony and gala at the State­house on Mon­day.

“I be­lieve I have pre­pared my whole life for this job,” said Dewine, who at 72 is the old­est Ohioan to be­come gover­nor. “I think I have been blessed, for­tu­nate to do some­thing I al­ways have en­joyed very much. I like it in the sense that in pub­lic of­fice, you can go to try and solve a prob­lem. I get great sat­is­fac­tion out of do­ing that and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.”

Po­lit­i­cally, Ohio’s in­com­ing gover­nor is to the right of the fel­low Repub­li­can he is suc­ceed­ing, John Ka­sich. Whereas Ka­sich is a po­ten­tial third-time pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and a critic of Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Dewine is an un­der­stated sup­porter.

Dewine is more mea­sured, more care­ful with his words than Ka­sich. He had to be bul­lied by Ka­sich into agree­ing to re­tain Ka­sich’s ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid cov­er­age to more than 650,000 work­ing poor adults. Dewine also has sig­naled that he wants a closer work­ing re­la­tion­ship with leg­is­la­tors and lo­cal-gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials than the strained cir­cum­stances that de­vel­oped un­der Ka­sich.

Dewine has pledged to sign a bill ban­ning abor­tion once a fe­tal heart­beat can be de­tected, at about six weeks. Ka­sich, though an abor­tion foe, twice ve­toed the bill as un­con­sti­tu­tional, en­rag­ing fel­low Repub­li­cans in the leg­is­la­ture.

Dewine also sup­ports the con­cealed car­ry­ing of hand­guns with­out a per­mit and backs a “stand your ground” law re­mov­ing the duty to seek a way to re­treat be­fore shoot­ing in self-de­fense.

Dewine op­poses gay mar­riage and the ex­pan­sion of pro­tec­tions to Ohio’s LGBTQ com­mu­nity. He un­suc­cess­fully de­fended an amend­ment to Ohio’s con­sti­tu­tion ban­ning gay mar­riage in the 2015 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court le­gal­ized same-sex mar­riage, and he fought an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion edict that pub­lic schools must al­low trans­gen­der stu­dents to use bath­rooms and show­ers of their choice.

Per­son­ally, Dewine’s story be­gan amid the farm fields of Greene County south­west of Colum­bus, and it evolved into a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer he never saw com­ing as young man, one in which the peren­nial can­di­date — to the head-shak­ing dis­be­lief of oth­ers — still re­tains his love of the glad-hand­ing and chicken din­ners that are the core of re­tail pol­i­tics.

Dewine’s famed work ethic was en­trenched be­gin­ning at age 12, when he be­gan sten­cil­ing bags and load­ing trucks and train box­cars while work­ing with his grand­par­ents and par­ents at the fam­ily seed com­pany in the late 1950s. The fam­ily’s busi­ness and prop­erty hold­ings formed the ba­sis of Dewine’s mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar wealth later in life.

“I came from a fam­ily of peo­ple who worked hard. They al­ways had this amaz­ing work ethic,” Dewine said of his par­ents and grand­par­ents, who brought him up in the Ro­man Catholic Church as he learned that one must help oth­ers.

“I think your faith is the fo­cus of who you are and forms how you look at things. It has to be a part of who you are,” he said.

The same pre­teen used to drib­ble his bas­ket­ball past the Yel­low Springs house of a shy girl with whom he was smit­ten, Frances Struew­ing. One day, as a sixth-grader, he showed up on her doorstep with a Whit­man sam­pler box of choco­lates. Fran’s sis­ter had to drag her to the door to ac­cept Mike’s gift. Their first date came in the sev­enth grade, and the cou­ple be­gan dat­ing se­ri­ously as ju­niors at Yel­low Springs High School.

In lib­eral Yel­low Springs, dur­ing the LBJ era, Dewine was a rar­ity as a Repub­li­can even be­fore he could vote. He and a small group formed a high school GOP group. Fran, from a fam­ily of Democrats, jokes that she was “con­verted” by her boyfriend.

Dewine then set off for col­lege at Mi­ami Univer­sity in Ox­ford — be­cause that was where Fran had en­rolled. One fresh­man se­mes­ter of busi­ness cour­ses prompted him to turn to an­other dis­ci­pline — ed­u­ca­tion. He re­solved to be a high school gov­ern­ment and his­tory teacher, and he even served as a stu­dent teacher at Prince­ton High School in Cincin­nati. He and Fran mar­ried while in col­lege, and they had their first child be­fore grad­u­at­ing in 1969.

Dewine then en­rolled at the Ohio North­ern Univer­sity Col­lege of Law in Ada. Dewine dis­cov­ered that he loved the law, and he served an in­tern­ship as a clerk in the Greene County prose­cu­tor’s of­fice. He was en­thralled watch­ing a mur­der trial and, once his law de­gree was in hand, he be­gan work­ing as an as­sis­tant prose­cu­tor. In 1976, he was elected county prose­cu­tor.

In that of­fice, Dewine’s deal­ings with crimes against chil­dren — he and Fran have eight chil­dren and 23 grand­chil­dren, with an­other on the way — col­ored his gov­ern­ing phi­los­o­phy. Chil­dren are at the front of the line.

“Child abuse, kids in hor­ri­ble cir­cum­stances ... it re­ally im­pacted me, and it does to this day,” Dewine said. “If you look at my ca­reer, a com­mon thread is chil­dren. Some of the things I am proud­est of, in­clud­ing in the U.S. Se­nate, a lot of them have to do with the feel­ing we have an obli­ga­tion to help other peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly chil­dren.”

Fran Dewine said, “I thought I was mar­ry­ing a school­teacher, but I knew he loved pol­i­tics. Once he saw the dif­fer­ence he could make ... he has made a dif­fer­ence. We don’t do it for the glory of the of­fice, we do it be­cause you can change the world.”

The ever-present Fran is as big a po­lit­i­cal an­i­mal as her hus­band. She vis­ited all 88 coun­ties last year while hand­ing out 130,000 of her trade­mark cook­books. She also tried to feed and keep weight on her hus­band, who could not re­ally spare the 5 pounds he lost dur­ing the cam­paign.

After one term in the state Se­nate, Dewine went on to serve four terms in the U.S. House be­fore be­ing elected lieu­tenant gover­nor on a ticket with Voinovich in 1990. Fol­low­ing a dis­as­trous run against Demo­cratic U.S. Sen. John Glenn in 1992, Dewine won elec­tion to the Se­nate over Joel Hy­att in 1994 and was re-elected in 2000 over Ted Ce­leste. He lost his seat in 2006 to Demo­crat Sher­rod Brown, now Ohio’s se­nior se­na­tor.

Dewine’s first of two terms as at­tor­ney gen­eral came after he nar­rowly ousted Demo­crat Richard Cor­dray in 2010. He then de­feated Cor­dray in Novem­ber by 3.7 per­cent­age points to win the gover­nor’s of­fice after fend­ing off a run from the right by Lt. Gov. Mary Tay­lor in a nasty GOP pri­mary. Dewine spent a record $35 mil­lion to win the gover­nor’s of­fice, in­clud­ing $4 mil­lion he lent to his cam­paign.

Dewine side­lined a would-be pri­mary op­po­nent, Sec­re­tary of State Jon Husted, in late 2017 by con­sum­mat­ing a merger over a break­fast of Fran’s rasp­berry-lemon muffins at the Dewines’ Colum­bus condo, mak­ing Husted his lieu­tenant-gover­nor run­ning mate.

Husted said of Dewine last week, “His care for the peo­ple and the in­ter­ests of the state of Ohio are some­thing I ad­mire. They are deep. They are real.”

While Dewine was lieu­tenant gover­nor in 1993, he and Fran suf­fered their big­gest loss, which Dewine said “re­mains with me ev­ery day.” Daugh­ter Becky, a 22-year-old as­pir­ing jour­nal­ist, was killed in a car crash near their Cedarville home.

After a later trip to im­pov­er­ished Haiti, the Dewines be­gan fund­ing schools for needy chil­dren there, in­clud­ing a school named in mem­ory of Becky. The $13 mil­lion Dewine Fam­ily Foun­da­tion gives hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars each year to the Haitian schools. And, after start­ing with 150 gifts, Fran Dewine now gath­ers 5,000 presents in the garage each Christ­mas and ships them to chil­dren in the Caribbean coun­try.

“Just help­ing chil­dren, wher­ever there are, has al­ways been some­thing that has al­ways driven Mike,” Fran said.

Chil­dren are her top in­ter­est as well. The famed Dewine ice cream so­cial, held ev­ery sum­mer on the grounds of the Dewine home, was Fran’s idea. She dis­dained fundrais­ers and cock­tail par­ties and wanted to do some­thing that would in­volve chil­dren when her hus­band ran for prose­cu­tor. She and her helpers bake more than 200 pies, and 42 years later, the tra­di­tion con­tin­ues.

Patrick Dewine, the only child in the clan to fol­low their fa­ther into pol­i­tics, said he learned from the best.

“If you watch my fa­ther, what you see is in­vari­ably he treats ev­ery­one with re­spect, treats them well. If you just look at his ca­reer, you can’t help but be struck by his de­ter­mi­na­tion and per­sis­tence when he wants to ac­com­plish a goal.

“I think the one thing that strikes peo­ple — just not me — about my fa­ther is that he is very, very gen­uine in what he be­lieves and what he wants to do. You don’t get the sense he does things for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. He does it be­cause it is the right thing to do,” the el­dest son said.

As the elder Dewine takes of­fice, Ohioans will be hear­ing from him.

“I be­lieve I am a good lis­tener, be­cause that is how I learn. There are peo­ple out there in Ohio who know a lot about the is­sues, and you need to be talk­ing to them.”

In a life filled with high places, Dewine prom­ises to re­main down to earth as he starts his big­gest job.

rlud­[email protected]­ @Randy­lud­low


Mike Dewine, with wife Fran, basks in his 2010 vic­tory that re­turned him to pub­lic of­fice as Ohio’s at­tor­ney gen­eral after four years on the side­line.

Mike Dewine was a state se­na­tor in 1981, serv­ing two years be­fore win­ning elec­tion to the U.S. House.

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