Up until a month ago, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) was pursuing a curious strategy of not campaigning on his record of promoting economic growth through clean energy and efficiency. In 2008, he signed a renewable energy standard that ensures a market for wind and solar producers, and, more importantly, creates a market for retrofitting homes and factories, an industry in which Ohio is positioned to lead. Yet Strickland wasn’t talking about his accomplishments. “I don’t think the average Ohioan feels that or sees it,” the Ohio Sierra Club’s Jennifer Miller said of the governor’s leadership on these issues.

That’s changed in the last few weeks. Strickland has come out hard against his Republican opponent, John Kasich, for talking about repealing the state’s clean energy standard.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!

“Perhaps Congressman Kasich just doesn’t understand public policy because he cites the increasing energy costs as one of the main reasons why he would reverse course on our innovation,” Strickland said, noting the law requires energy companies to take cost-saving efficiency steps.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Strickland has also announced that a new 84-acre solar farm will be built in southeast Ohio coal country, stocked by Ohio-made panels. “Our laws created demand,” he said. “Our policies sped research and development, and now these companies are ready to start filling orders.”

He’s also heightened the already-sharp contrast between his vision for transportation and Kasich’s. Kasich — a former Congress member, Lehman Brothers executive, and Fox News commentator — drew national headlines for promising to reject federal funds for a “3-C” rail line that would connect Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati — something Strickland supports. This week, Strickland’s administration proposed a 500 percent increase in transit funding over the next three years to bolster the state’s anemic bus and rail systems.

 “This is a potential bright spot in these tough economic times, and an opportunity to turn the tides in favor of a transportation system that better serves ALL Ohioans,” Amanda Woodrum, a transportation specialist at Policy Matters Ohio, wrote in an email. The $100 million proposal will make for a tough push through the legislature even if Strickland gets reelected. Under a Kasich administration, it’s not going to happen.

And the polling? Nate Silver’s poll aggregator gives Kasich a four-point lead five days before the election. Because of Ohio’s strategic significance in congressional redistricting and the 2012 presidential race, this race may matter more to Team Obama than any other this cycle, The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder speculates.

Obama and Vice President Biden head to Ohio Sunday to stump for Strickland. It’ll be interesting to see if they call out Strickland’s energy and transit work.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.