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Political wives work to win votes for Ohio hubbies

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Ohio First Lady Karen W. Kasich has played a steady, low-key role during her husbands three-plus years as governor of the nation's seventh most populous state. Most recently, Mrs. Kasich and her husband, Ohio Gov. John R Kasich, launched "Start Talking!," a program aimed at curbing the growing epidemic of drug abuse. "Governor and Mrs. Kasich urge Ohio families to adopt a pledge for 2014: a pledge that will help keep their children safe from the tragedies that result from drugs," the Start Talking! Website declares.

In this crucial election year, a year her governor husband is asking Ohio voters, who barely elected him in 2010, to rehire him again for a second and final four-year term. Mrs. Kasich, a native of Upper Arlington, an affluent suburb of Columbus, will be focus on "Time For 10!, " a partnership with Nationwide Children's Hospital that encourages physical activity in Ohio elementary schools by offering a series of five, free, ten-minute exercise videos. A second focus will be "Start Talking!," a new youth drug prevention initiative—inspired by research that shows youth are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs when parents and adults talk with them about substance use and abuse—focused on ways parents and other adults can reduce the likelihood of youth drug use before it begins.

In partnership with the Ohio Arts Council, Mrs. Kasich will launch the spring installment of the "Spotlight" program, which features works of one selected Ohio artist each quarter at the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden. Gov. and Mrs. Kasich broke with tradition when in 2010 after his election they said they would not move into the Governor's Mansion, preferring instead to stay in their private residence.

The Kasich reelection campaign launched his first campaign bio-ad Tuesday. The Kasich's marriage in 1997 and the twin daughters that followed were part of the short ad. Kasich, 62-years old, represented a central Ohio congressional district for 18 years before stepping down to run for president in the 2000 GOP primary that was short-lived.

Conventional wisdom in Columbus says it's Kasich's election to lose, given his incumbent status, seasoned political team and ample campaign cash. But even with all these resources available to him, Democrats and their endorsed candidate, Ed FitzGerald could upend the Kasich juggernaut if certain stars come into alignment by Election Day on November 4. In recent polling, the widely known Kasich enjoys a five-point lead over the little-known 45-year old FitzGerald, whose home political turf is Cuyahoga County, the most populous of the state's 88 counties where Democratic votes are rich. Critics of Kasich say that FitzGerald's deficit to Kasich is narrow enough to narrow further over the approximately 200 days before Buckeyes vote for their next chief executive.

Shannon FitzGerald, who could be the next First Lady if off-year voter turnout breaks from history and turns out for her husband, said Wednesday that she is ready jump into the uphill battle to help her husband, a former FBI agent, prosecutor and Mayor of Lakewood, Ohio. "I thought it was about time I introduced myself," she said today. "As you may have already heard, I work as a dietitian for a Lorain County Public School District and at a Cleveland hospital. Ed and I have been married for 22 years, and we are the proud parents of 4 kids -- 2 boys who will be in college this coming fall and 2 high-school-age girls."

Over the next six months of the campaign, she said her activity level will rise considerably. "I am going to be active in this campaign. Literally. One of the ways I am going to campaign for Ed is to focus on local causes that are important to you. Because I am passionate about health and wellness issues, I am going to participate in running races all across Ohio, supporting and raising awareness for your local charities and causes." By running in races, she says she'll be able to share "the Ed I know with Ohio, as well as getting to know you and your stories."

"The Ed I know isn’t just the buttoned up, accomplished FBI agent, lawyer, and County Executive. He is actually much more than that. He is a loving and involved father who has demonstrated to his kids and me how to serve in public office with integrity and humility. Ed is real. He is not the typical politician of whom we all have grown weary. I stand by him because of this, and I am proud to be part of this gubernatorial run."

In upcoming state party events, former Republican National Committee head Haley Barbour of Mississippi will keynote the May Republican annual fundraiser dinner, while former President Bill Clinton will headline the Ohio Democratic Party's June dinner and fundraiser.

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