Chuck Conconi: Hello, I am Chuck Conconi with Focus Washington. Joining me today is Randy Teague. He’s a partner at the law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease.
Randy, thank you for joining us at Focus Washington today.
Randy Teague: Thank you for asking me to be here.
Chuck Conconi: There are a lot of things happening on the Hill, and I’d like to talk to you a little bit about the 2010 elections from the perspective of Ohio, which is where I am from. The Republicans defeated five Democratic incumbents in the House, helping make John Boehner of Ohio Speaker of the House. Other Ohio members are on key committees. Tell me a little bit about the influence Ohio is going to have—or does have.
Randy Teague: I think Ohio does have and will have even more influence here in Washington. Boehner as Speaker is critically important. But Pat Tiberi is on the Ways and Means Committee that handles taxes, trade, Medicare and social security. We have three members on the appropriations committee. I think this is a very good time for Ohio.
Chuck Conconi: It is going to be very influential. That new political clout—what does that mean for companies and industries in Ohio?
Randy Teague: I think it means their voice will be heard louder. Ohio has been a critical state in this country for a long time. But I think now they are going to be able to address the economy, taxes, trade through their members of Congress in ways they have not been able to do in many years.
Chuck Conconi: What are some of the biggest issues you think are going to be facing Congress this year?
Randy Teague: Well it is clearly the economy and jobs, it’s also budget and taxes. But for Ohio it is also exports. Much of Ohio’s economy is tied to exports, not only to Canada, which is obvious, but to Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Chuck Conconi: Is there going to be some return in the Rust Belt areas of Ohio? I keep reading about that.
Randy Teague: I think it will. But that isn’t a federal responsibility as well. I think Governor Kasich and the legislature are addressing that issue. They have to create incentives for corporations to stay there. They have to create incentives for corporations elsewhere in the United States to come to Ohio.
Chuck Conconi: What is the focus of lobbying and how has it changed, particularly since the Republicans control the House?
Randy Teague: Well, it has certainly been more intense. You have a new majority and that means new staff, that means new members. And a lobbyist has to be in touch with them, has to be able to take the voice of the people from Ohio to their representatives on critical issues.
Chuck Conconi: That means you are going back and forth more than usual?
Randy Teague: Absolutely. It is a very busy time.
Chuck Conconi: There has been a lot of talk about gridlock in Congress. Is the House really going to able to accomplish much this year?
Randy Teague: I think what it will accomplish is a new trend line. There is no way within two years that you are going to be able to reverse 220 years of increased budgets. But I do think the trend line will be getting control of the budget, trying not to let taxes go up, which could depress the economy. I think that will happen in Congress this year.
Chuck Conconi: Switching to Ohio. John Kasich elected governor, picked up 13 seats and gained control of the State House of Representatives. What will the governor and Republicans in Ohio accomplish there this year? Ohio is state that flips back and forth a lot.
Randy Teague: It does. And that is why Ohio is a bellwether state. It is a key state for the nation. But I think what he is trying to accomplish in Ohio is what Boehner is hoping to accomplish in Washington. He is focused on the economy. He is focused on jobs. And I think that he also knows he has to get handles on the state budget in ways that have not really occurred for probably a half century.
Chuck Conconi: He has already in the middle of a battle same as Wisconsin over the bargaining power of public employee unions. What will come in Ohio there? It has always been a tough union state?
Randy Teague: It is a tough union state. But I think he will make some progress in that regard. It is critically important to understand that neither Kasich nor his colleagues in the state legislature are anti-teacher. That is the last thing that they are. They are anti-unions that don’t recognize that the voters are key to the economy of the state, key to education itself, and he has to get control of that.
Chuck Conconi: Isn’t there a danger, though, that this could a reverse problem for Republicans in the state? Expectations are raised to such a point…
Randy Teague: There could be short term adverse effects. There is no question about that. But I think if you are able to accomplish the objectives, move on from them, begin implementing them, people see the value of these changes by not having to pay higher taxes—state and locally—to support education is not really delivering a better, deeper quality of education to the students, then it is a long-term success. You actually have to put the state first.
Chuck Conconi: Politico had a story—as Ohio goes, so goes the nation—that [Sen.] Rob Portman is working hard to bring Ohio into the win column for Republicans in 2012. Can the Republicans win Ohio in 2012?
Randy Teague: I think they can win Ohio in 2012. But I think the Democrats can win Ohio in 2012 as well. I think Portman on the Republican side, Sen. Brown, Sherrod Brown, on the Democratic side, are both going to be very attractive for the national tickets in 2012.
Chuck Conconi: We are running out of time. But I would like to thank you for being here. We have to do this again, Randy. This has been great fun.
Randy Teague: Be glad to do it.
Chuck Conconi: I’m Chuck Conconi, and this has been Focus Washington.