CLEVELAND - It was in early 1987 while interning at a TV station in Philadelphia that I came across a congressional directory on the assignment desk.
As someone who was involved in politics, I started leafing through the massive book, reading the biographies of various representatives. While fanning through the pages though I swore, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my name.
I quickly thumbed back to the page and there it was Rep. John Kosich, wait, no it was Rep. John Kasich, a Republican from Ohio. I read his bio, xeroxed a copy of the page and took it home to show my family, who like me, had never heard of the guy.
As I moved from state to state in the following years working in television, I would come across the congressman’s name in the news and each time I wondered where his family was from, could it possibly be Krk, the Croatian Island in the Adriatic where my grandfather was born?
After about 10 years, I finally sat down and wrote him to find out. A few weeks later, Kasich wrote me back. In the letter he told me how his parents were killed in 1987 when their car was struck by a drunk driver, so he said the best man to tell me exactly where his grandfather came from would be his dad’s brother, George, and he gave me his phone number back in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.
I gave Uncle George a call and we spoke on the phone for a while. It turns out there was no relation. John’s Croatian roots came from his mother’s side of the family, the Kasich side, he told me, came from what is now Slovakia.
It wasn’t until Kasich retired from Congress and started working for Fox News that the viewer confusion began because I was now working in Ohio. I started getting e-mails from people when John would fill in for Bill O’Reilly on the O’Reilly Factor telling me how much they enjoyed my work.
I even got a call from my mother one day asking me, “were you on Fox last night?” I said no. She said well Mrs. Kelly (who has known me since birth) just called and said she watched you last night and you did a great job.
On another occasion, my sister-in-law in Connecticut got a call from one of her relatives excitedly telling her to “turn on Fox, your husband’s brother is on.”
Then there was a time I was waiting for a meeting to start in Madison and I could hear a couple of men talking low behind me -- by their conversation, I knew it was coming. One said “didn’t you use to be a Senator?” I politely told him that no it was congressman and no it’s not me.
When Kasich first started considering a run for Governor of Ohio, I knew it was going to be interesting. Almost immediately, a reporter from another station pulled me aside and asked are you running for office? I told her no, it’s John Kasich. She said that’s what she thought, but her hairdresser was convinced it was me and she’s voting for me.
The funny thing is Liz Misson, our nighttime assignment desk editor at NewsChannel5, had been deliberately calling me John Kasich for a couple of years ever since John’s book Stand for Something came out and a promotional copy was mailed to the station.
When John did formally announce his candidacy, he came to NewsChannel5 for a sit-down interview and we compared again the familial roots. He told me his Uncle George was still alive and doing well and even surprised him by driving from McKees Rocks to be there outside of Columbus for the campaign kickoff.
When we finished with the interview, he said "Hey, wouldn’t it be funny since they call you John Kasich if I go down into the newsroom and say 'hey has anyone seen John Kasich?'"
So off we went.
I showed him around and he got to meet Liz, who started the whole Kosich – Kasich thing. He was also excited about meeting Leon Bibb, who he had watched on Columbus television back in the ‘70s.
As the race heated up and the ads were on television every other second, even my son’s second grade classmates were beginning to think Aidan’s Dad was the guy running for governor.
Now that the campaign is over, I wanted to set the record straight and tell the back story in this period of time before the hard work of governing begins. And with a projected $8 billion hole in the state budget, it will be hard.
Just one request though, when and if deep cuts are made, e-mail him not me.
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