WASHINGTON — When President Donald Trump hits the dais for his State of the Union address Tuesday night, a face recognizable to fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes will be watching from the galleries.
Former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel will be the guest of freshman Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a former Ohio State wide receiver who was elected in November.
The invite is tied to gratitude rather than politics. Tressel urged Gonzalez to consider public office and Gonzalez, a Rocky River Republican, credits Tressel's mentorship with encouraging him.
Tressel, now president of Youngstown State University, is one of a long list of guests who have been invited to watch the speech. Rep. Tim Ryan is bringing the head of the union representing the endangered General Motors plant in Lordstown. Rep. Warren Davidson has invited the Middletown police chief. Sen. Sherrod Brown will be accompanied by a woman whose husband died worrying about his endangered pension.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/dispatchpolitics and connect with us on Twitter @OhioPoliticsNow
While many will watch the speech Tuesday with an eye to the balcony seats around first lady Melania Trump, for many lawmakers the address offers a chance to highlight their priorities by bringing a face attached to that priority. Among the guests that the White House announced Monday night is Ashley Evans, a recovering opioid addict who will celebrate one year and one month in recovery on Feb. 9. Her path to recovery began with the birth of her daughter and “is passionate about sharing her story of hope,” the White House said. Evans, of Kettering, near Dayton, will be reunited with her daughter full time on Feb. 15.
For Ryan, D–Niles, few issues loom larger than the GM plant in Lordstown, which the automaker announced it would shutter earlier this year. He and the state’s two senators have been vocal in their criticism of the decision.
By bringing UAW Local 1112 President Dave Green, Ryan argues, he’ll thank Green for his work on behalf of the employees at that plant and highlight the plight of the hundreds of laid-off Lordstown workers “who deserve to be seen and heard.”
While Ryan has focused on laid-off workers in his district, Davidson, a Troy Republican, invited Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw to highlight his work fighting the opioid epidemic in Middletown.
The state's two senators have also gotten into the tradition. This year, Brown asked Rita Lewis, the widow of Butch Lewis, a Vietnam veteran, truck driver and Ohio Teamster who died in 2015 while fighting to preserve endangered pensions.
Portman, meanwhile, invited Tito Brown, the mayor of Youngstown. The city recently received a federal grant aimed at improving infrastructure within the city and connecting key institutions such as Youngstown State, Mercy Health and the Youngstown Business Incubator.
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, tapped Maj. Gen. Deborah Ashenhurst, the new director of Ohio Department of Veterans Services. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, will bring Russ Gottemoeller, a businessman from his district.
Others, meanwhile, opted to keep it simple: Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Cincinnati, will bring his wife, Monica, according to a spokeswoman.