- Laura A. Bischoff Columbus bureau
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mary Taylor laced into her primary opponent, Mike DeWine, in a 4-minute speech to the Ohio Republican Party state central committee on Friday, calling DeWine a “shill for the entrenched special interests.”
“He’s a career politician who has been on the state ballot in each of the last five decades, and has a liberal voting record as long as the line of babies he has kissed and hands he has shook,” she said. “After 42 years on the public dole, he is soft on protecting your second amendment rights, soft on getting conservative judges appointed, and soft on immigration.”
She warned the Ohio GOP against the DeWine “coronation” and backing a candidate whose “entire campaign is based on the air of inevitability.”
Then she lost the state party endorsement.
The committee voted 59-2 to back DeWine and his running mate Jon Husted. DeWine had no comment on Taylor’s speech, other than to say voters don’t want to hear internal squabbles.
Another fight played out over who would get the endorsement in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate: multi-millionaire business owner and political newcomer Mike Gibbons or multi-millionaire business owner and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth.
Renacci won it with 46 votes while Gibbons earned three votes and Columbus area businesswoman Melissa Ackison received two votes.
Gibbons missed the meeting because he attended a ceremony at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida for his son Ryan Gibbons, who was earning his Naval Aviator wings. Speaking on his behalf was former state lawmaker Joy Padgett who said “Ohio primary voters should determine who the Republican nominee for United States Senate should be…Let the primary process proceed.”
Padgett discounted rumors that the National Republican Senate Committee would only back Renacci in the general election against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown. Padgett said it is “simply an empty threat. It doesn’t pass the smell test. This is Ohio.”
Renacci, back in Ohio after voting in the early morning hours for a federal budget package, said he has a proven track record of beating incumbent Democrats and asked the 66-member Ohio GOP central committee to back him. “Together we can send Sherrod Brown packing forever,” he said.
Piling up endorsements helps politicos show their strength and the biggest plum is if a candidate can land backing from the state party, which often brings foot soldiers, funding and other logistical support.
Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Murphy Timken, who took over party leadership a year ago with a pledge of not picking winners or losers, said the endorsements were the decision of the committee — not the chair. “From my perspective preventing an endorsement is just as much of tipping the scales as pushing for an endorsement. It was a fair and open process,” she said.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper delighted in the Republican Party’s internal squabbles.
“As DeWine and Taylor trade barbs in the press, the Ohio Republican primary continues to be a nasty, chaotic and divisive race to the extreme right, with the candidates dueling for the blessing of Donald Trump, while running away from John Kasich. Whoever wins this primary will have to deal with the wreckage of a divided Ohio Republican Party,” he said in a written release.
Taylor said recently that DeWine and Husted are out of touch and she wouldn’t vote for DeWine.
The committee also voted to endorse: Dave Yost for attorney general, Keith Faber for auditor, and Frank LaRose for secretary of state. The committee voted to back state Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, over Ashtabula County Republican Sandy O’Brien in the state treasurer’s race.
O’Brien, who lost a statewide race for treasurer to Democrat Rich Cordray in 2006, told the central committee that just 13 of 107 Republicans holding statewide or legislative office are women and there is an “institutional bias” in endorsements and funding that works against female candidates.