Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken proves… Nothing Changes

 

Jessie Balmert

Cincinnati Enquirer USA TODAY NETWORK

COLUMBUS – Ohio Republican Party leaders endorsed Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for governor as competitor Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor blasted her challenger and fellow Republicans, calling it a “coronation.”

Mary Taylor

Taylor mocked the endorsement process at the Ohio Republican Party’s meeting Friday, welcoming everyone to DeWine’s living room. “The only thing missing is the ice cream and maybe a cookbook,” said Taylor, aware that she was unlikely to win the party’s nod.

“By putting your finger on the scale of this race, you are telling GOP primary voters that you know better than they do who should represent them in the governor’s office,” Taylor said.

DeWine won the endorsement with 59 votes. Taylor received just two.

Taylor previously said she would not support DeWine in the general election if he became the party’s nominee. DeWine’s appeal to party leaders focused less on Taylor and more on the Democrats.

“We cannot go back to the Strickland days. We cannot go back to the Cordray days,” DeWine said.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who left the governor’s race to serve as DeWine’s running mate, said he worries about ego and apathy harming the party in the fall election.

“As far as ego goes, we set ours aside. We teamed up,” Husted said.

Taylor hasn’t always opposed endorsements. In the past, Taylor helped whip votes for Gov. John Kasich to replace the Ohio Republican Party’s chairman – then Kevin DeWine, a second cousin of current Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Renacci endorsed

President Donald Trump heaped praise on U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci during the president’s trip to Blue Ash to promote the GOP’s tax reform. (A vote, incidentally, that Renacci missed.

“Jim, get in there and fight. Get in there and fight. We need you,” Trump said.

Renacci and Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons are locked in a Republican primary battled based largely on who supports Trump more. Gibbons was an early supporter and fundraiser for Trump. Renacci never endorsed Gov. John Kasich’s presidential bid against eventual nominee Trump.

“The president is clearly supportive of me in this race,” Renacci said Friday.

That nod from the president was followed by a nod from the state party Friday over objections from his competitors.

“I request that you respect primary voters and not endorse in this race,” said former state Rep. Joy Padgett, speaking on behalf of Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons. Gibbons was in Florida for his son’s Naval ceremony.

Renacci is a late entrant into the race after Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel dropped out, citing his wife’s health. He needs support, both financial another otherwise, to defeat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, the incumbent with $9.8 million on hand.

Melissa Ackison of Marysville; Don Elijah Eckhart of Galloway and Dan Kiley of Maineville are also running in the GOP primary.

Former Rep. McEwen endorsed

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken previously asked former U.S. Congressman Bob McEwen to resign from the state party’s governing body if he knew about former state Rep. Wes Goodman’s alleged molestation of a teenager.

But the state party still endorsed his re-election bid after debate Friday.

McEwen, executive director of the conservative Council for National Policy, reportedly was included in emails detailing concerns from a stepfather who believed Goodman had fondled his stepson during a 2015 event for the conservative organization, according to the Washington Post.

McEwen reportedly told the stepfather, in an email, that “strong action” would be taken against Goodman, then a GOP candidate for the Ohio House.

But no action was taken. Goodman, who was elected in 2016, resigned last year after he was accused of having sex with a man in his office.

Picking favorites?

Party leader Timken campaigned for the post last January on the promise of maintaining an even playing field for Republican candidates.

That promise appealed to some Republicans who were upset that the party had endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the presidential primary. Others weren’t thrilled with how the governor and his chairman Matt Borges treated then-candidate Donald Trump.

“I don’t pick favorites. I don’t pick sides,” Timken said in January 2017 during her appeal to Ohio Republicans choosing between her and Borges. “We cannot afford to have a chairman that picks and chooses which of our nominees gets support based on opinions or outside special interests.”

Did Timken go back on her word Friday?

“I didn’t pick any winners and losers,” Timken said after the endorsements. “From my perspective, preventing an endorsement is just as much tipping the scales as pushing for an endorsement. It was a fair and open process.”

What about the Democrats?

Democrats, facing an eight-way primary for governor, are unlikely to endorse in that race. They already announced their support for their four incumbent members of Congress and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Democrats are wary of anointing a flawed candidate, such as 2014 nominee Ed FitzGerald, or causing an intraparty fight, such as the endorsement of former Gov. Ted Strickland over Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld for U.S. Senate in 2016.

“I think the Republican Party is making a mistake,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said. “Let the voters decide.”

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