Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018
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Ohio GOP endorses DeWine over Taylor for governor

LIBERTY CENTER, Ohio — In what opponent Mary Taylor characterized as “Mike DeWine's living room,” the Ohio Republican Party's State Central Committee on Friday, via secret ballot, handed the state attorney general the party's official backing heading into a gubernatorial primary election fight. 

“When we are sworn in ... we will be ready to go,” Mr. DeWine promised while standing next to his running mate, Secretary of State Jon Husted. “We will be ready to lead. We will be ready to do everything to ensure every child in the state, no matter where they are born or who their parents are, will have the opportunity to live the American dream.”

An unsmiling Ms. Taylor tried to head off the “air of inevitability” for Mr. DeWine after he joined forces with Mr. Husted to create a well-known, extremely well-financed team. But she knew what was about to happen and praised the presence of the press.

“The coronation will be televised,” she said as she urged the committee in vain to leave it to Republican voters to decide on May 8.

Mr. DeWine needed the votes of 44 of the 66 committee members. He received 59 to Ms. Taylor's two. The candidate would have access to official party slate cards, bulk mail rates, and access to field staff.

It also means the party could spend money on behalf of the candidate and against one of its own in a competitive primary.

The committee voted to endorse northeast Ohio U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in November. They gave him 46 votes to Cleveland area businessman Mike Gibbons' three and Marysville business co-owner Melissa Ackison's two.

In other races, the Republican committee unanimously backed state Rep. Robert Sprague (R., Findlay) for state treasurer over Sandra O'Brien, former Ashtabula County auditor, despite her arguing that the endorsement process screens out women candidates.

“The endorsement process has to stop,” she said. “I realize it has a long tradition in our party, but it is a tradition we had long before we had female candidates.”

Party Chairman Jane Timken later said she found “ironic” Ms. O'Brien's suggestion that the committee was discriminating against women who enter politics late in life and have trouble in fund-raising.

“I'm the female chairman, and I've probably raised $3 million for the party,” she said. “I don't think it's a matter of women being able to raise money.”

There was no contest for Auditor Dave Yost, candidate for attorney general; state Rep. Keith Faber (R., Celina), candidate for state auditor; and state Sen. Frank LaRose (R., Hudson), candidate for secretary of state. All are unopposed and were unanimously endorsed.

In the governor’s race, Ms. Taylor recently lent $3 million of her own money to her campaign in addition to $250,000 from her running mate, Cincinnati businessman Nathan Estruth, as a show of strength. Subtract the personal loans and her campaign had just $300,000 in cash, and the lack of the party's endorsement won't make future fund-raising easier.

DeWine-Husted carried $10.6 million into 2018.

“My opponent is a creature of that establishment, a shill for the entrenched special interests and lobbyists who stalk the halls of the Statehouse looking for a handout,” Ms. Taylor told the committee before the vote. “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.

“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 said.

Mark Wagoner, committee member from Lucas County, said it was a much closer debate as to who to endorse in the U.S. Senate race than it was for governor.

“I think it shows we're going to have a great top of the ticket [in Mr. DeWine] this election cycle,” he said. “Building that kind of momentum is what people are looking for us to provide.”

He characterized DeWine-Husted as a “superstar” ticket.

“I think it's important that the Republican voters know who we support,” said Meghan Gallagher, committee member from Lucas County who also supported Mr. DeWine and Mr. Renacci.

“We are the leadership of the party, and they do look to us to ask for endorsements, even at the local level,” she said.

So far the Ohio Democratic Party has been content to sit back and let the chips fall as they may in its crowded field of candidates for governor.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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