COLUMBUS — Four years ago, when Ohioans were taking a broom to the Grand Old Party in statewide office, one Republican was left standing.
State Auditor Mary Taylor bucked that trend, in part, by tying her Democratic opponent to a Republican-pushed tax hike and to the then-unpopular Republican governor, Bob Taft. Ms. Taylor's vote against a penny hike in the state sales tax prompted leadership to strip her of key committee posts.
“I think that helps define who I am as a person,” she said. “I think it defines who I am as an elected official.”
She had announced her intention earlier to seek re-election as the state's top accountant when GOP gubernatorial candidate John Kasich called. Her success in swimming against the 2006 Democratic tide and her criticisms of the Strickland administration's budget choices made her a logical choice to be Mr. Kasich's running mate.
Ms. Taylor, 44, recently raised eyebrows, and Mr. Strickland's ire, during a Cleveland campaign event when she said that she, as a certified public accountant, would sometimes advise Ohio business clients to leave the state.
She dismisses the suggestion that her advice made her anti-Ohio. “I think it's no big secret that our taxes are too high in Ohio,” she said. “You look at the factors that keep businesses from locating here [and] keep businesses from growing here.
“…We have taxes that are punitive to business,” she said. “We have entrepreneurs who leave on the other end, because they're looking to lower their costs just like businesses. Sticking your head in the sand and trying to deny the fact that business owners make decisions to lower their costs is not going to solve any problems that we face in Ohio.”
A wife, mother of two teen boys, and a former councilman in the Akron suburb of Green, she served two terms in the Ohio House before she became the first CPA elected state auditor in 2006. As the only Republican in statewide executive office, she and the Strickland administration occasionally have clashed.
Ms. Taylor characterized Ohio's books as “unauditable” when Mr. Strickland's budget office said conversion to a new computer system had delayed turning over final numbers for the 2008 fiscal year. The administration accused her of political grandstanding and endangering Ohio's credit rating.
Then she testified before the GOP-controlled Senate that Ohio could face a revenue shortfall in the next two-year budget starting July 1, 2011 of as much as $7.9 billion, criticizing the administration's use of federal stimulus dollars, budgetary reserves, and other one-time funds to balance the books. And delays in the release of her office's audit of the Ohio Lottery Commission prompted the administration to suggest she was holding it for political purposes.
“They wanted to turn it into something other than what it was,” Ms. Taylor said. “I think our work kind of stands on its own for the last three and a half years. We do the job of auditing without regard to partisan politics.”
Mr. Kasich wants Ms. Taylor to help streamline state regulations.
“We want [businesses] here,” Ms. Taylor said. “We want them to be successful. We want them to create more jobs. ... It's not just an urban issue. It's an issue that reaches into every single community across Ohio.”
When the National Rifle Association backed Mr. Strickland in part because of his vote on the Clinton-era assault weapons ban, the Kasich campaign pointed to Ms. Taylor.
Her family has guns, and she said she's “OK” at clay shooting. “If you're competitive, it's a good competitive sport.”