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Betrayal: Gov. Kasich Announces He Will Veto Heartbeat Bill and Stand Your Ground Measure

Oh, John Kasich, how many times you have betrayed your party, your state, and your country — so many that we've lost count.

The most recent entry to the list is the Ohio governor's announcement that he will veto two bills that are near and dear to the hearts of conservatives who propelled him to victory in 2010 and 2014: The aptly named "heartbeat bill" and "stand your ground" legislation.

Kasich told reporters outside his office Monday that he opposes both bills. If Kasich follows through with the veto threat, this will be the second time in two years he's vetoed the "heartbeat bill," which would ban abortions in Ohio after a baby's heartbeat can be detected. The "stand your ground" legislation would allow armed Ohioans facing a threat or perceived threat to defend themselves with lethal force in public places with no “duty to retreat."

Kasich, the son of a mailman, signed a 20-week abortion ban in 2016 but vetoed a separate measure that would have protected babies with beating hearts from abortions. He said at the time that the law would have been struck down. "The State of Ohio will be the losing party in that lawsuit and will be forced to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists' lawyers," Kasich said. "Therefore, this veto is in the public interest."

On the issue of gun rights, Kasich has been all over the board. As a member of the House in the 1990s, he voted for the controversial so-called "assault weapons ban," joining with Dianne Feinstein and other liberal Democrats to help pass the measure. Since becoming governor, he has been cheered by gun rights activists in the state for signing into law several measures they supported. But in recent months, Kasich has been rattling his saber about the need for stricter gun control laws in the wake of recent mass shootings.

Last Ohio's lame-duck governor jetted to New Hampshire to test the waters for yet another presidential run.

"I mean, all options are on the table," he told reporters. "And the question is, ultimately, can I have a very positive impact on the country. Kasich said he believes an independent run might be a viable option. "There's a vast ocean in the middle," he said.

Both the "heartbeat bill" (which had 53 co-sponsors) and the "stand your ground" legislation passed the Ohio House with veto-proof majorities and are now headed to the Senate. If the Senate delays a vote, the bills could become victims of the Christmas holidays and die when the legislative session ends on December 31. If the bills do pass in the Senate, Kasich will have ten days to either veto or sign them into law.

House Speaker Ryan Smith told reporters this week that Kasich will “try to run out the clock on us." He has warned members that they may be called back during the holiday break if Kasich vetos the bills. “It depends on when these bills are passed in the Senate and when the 10-day clock starts with the governor.”

Senate President Larry Obhof, a Republican, hasn't announced when votes will be held on the measures. “My anticipation is we’ll pass both and see how things unfold after that,” Obhof told the Columbus Dispatch. "I’d be very surprised if a majority of the members was not in favor of doing both of these.”

That said, the Republican-majority Ohio Senate has a history of voting down controversial bills — or refusing to vote them out of committee, so achieving a 20-vote veto-proof majority poses a significant challenge.

“There is a question of whether we do get to the right number of votes,” Obhof told the Dispatch. 

“There’s also a question of, does Mike DeWine want to work with us on those issues in January,” Obhof said. “Are these things better dealt with right now, even though we will have to push back on the governor, or could they just as easily be done on Jan. 20?”

Doug Deeken, a board member for Ohioans for Concealed Carry and chairman of the Wayne County Republican Party, told PJM that he is not surprised that Kasich plans to veto the "stand your ground" bill. "He is running for POTUS in 2020. He has surveyed the political battlefield and made the calculation that there are more votes to Trump’s left than his right," he said. "So he’s now reverted to being the same guy who voted for Bill Clinton’s gun ban in 1994.  John Kasich is nothing more than a wet finger in the wind.”

Lori Viars, who has been a tireless advocate for the "heartbeat bill," told PJM, "It's sad that Kasich, who campaigned as a pro-life candidate, has turned his back on the most vulnerable people of all — Ohio's unborn children." Viars, who on the board of the Conservative Republican Leadership Committee and serves as vice president of Warren County Right to Life, said, "The Ohio House voted 60 to 35 to pass the bill and it takes 60 votes to override a governor's veto. It takes 20 votes in the Ohio Senate and I believe we have 20 pro-life Senators."

"But wouldn't it be a shame for a pro-abortion act to be John Kasich's legacy?" said Viars, who decided to volunteer for Kasich in 2010 "because he told us he was pro-life." She lamented his apparent change of heart: "He clearly lied."

Rep. Christina Hagan, one of the youngest members of the Ohio House the primary sponsor of the "heartbeat bill," told "Fox and Friends" this week, "We live in the most medically advanced nation in the world, where scientific indicators such as cardiac activity are proof that we are on the right side of this issue."

"Without question, people in my generation are standing up and fighting for life every step of the way," she said. Hagen noted that there's a national movement to pass similar bills, not only in other states but also in Congress, where a bill is set to be heard before the House Judiciary Committee within the next week. She said it's not a partisan issue because "people from all walks of life believe that children with beating hearts should be protected."

If Kasich vetos the bills or runs out the clock, proponents of the measures will likely be back next session to try again — this time with a newly inaugurated Governor Mike DeWine, who has said he supports the bills.

Follow me on Twitter @pbolyard

This article was updated to include an additional comment from Doug Deeken.