Ohio Republican Party endorses Gov. Mike DeWine over protests of some in meeting
The Ohio Republican Party endorsed Gov. Mike DeWine's reelection bid – but not without protest from some Republicans frustrated with the party's support of the sitting governor.
Even with the objections, DeWine won the party's endorsement – in part because incumbents can win the party's nod with a simple majority of the 66-member governing body's vote. DeWine also has the advantage of having campaigned for, worked with or received donations from a slew of Republicans in charge of his endorsement fate.
DeWine and Lt. Jon Husted boast political connections that go back decades. Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Paduchik worked on DeWine's Senate campaign in 1994, for example. That can help with fundraising, ground game and yes, endorsements.
The Ohio Republican Party endorsed the slate of statewide candidates, including DeWine via a secret-ballot vote: 36-26.
That gave DeWine the nod over former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci. Canal Winchester farmer Joe Blystone and former Rep. Ron Hood did not seek the endorsement.
Disagreement over endorsement processState central committee member Joe Miller wanted anyone employed by DeWine or serving on a state board to recuse themselves from endorsing in the governor's race. Miller estimated about one-fourth of the board had these conflicts.
"We are voices for 3 to 4 million Republicans in the state of Ohio but our voice must truly reflect the sentiments of our constituents. Our votes cannot be influenced because of financial gain or prestige due to their close relationship with the governor."
But Miller's resolution failed. Some members took offense to Miller's implication that they were biased and compromised. "This is way off base," said committee member Dan Carter.
But that doesn't mean DeWine's endorsement was universally cheered by the Republican base. For activists like Strongsville GOP leader Shannon Burns, DeWine's endorsement was more like a rigged coronation than a genuine show of support.
DeWine has faced criticism from fellow Republicans over how he handled the COVID-19 pandemic and whether he's backed former President Donald Trump enough. DeWine has always had detractors in the pro-Second Amendment community for not being a "gun guy."
Some in the meeting Friday accused DeWine of violating the state constitution and having an approval rating lower than Democratic President Joe Biden.
"In my mind, the establishment’s endorsement on Friday will be the fake endorsement," said Burns, who is also a member of the Ohio Republican Party's state central committee. He supports Renacci's gubernatorial bid.
Renacci spokesman Tom Weyland said the vote went the way he expected it would but was still a mistake. “DeWine’s popularity is at an all-time low.”
DeWine campaign manager Brenton Temple had the opposite message: “We are grateful for the support of the Ohio Republican Party and their recognition of Governor DeWine and Lt. Governor Husted’s strong, conservative record.”
In 2018, DeWine won the Ohio GOP's endorsement over then-Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor for the open seat. Taylor criticized that process, sardonically welcoming everyone to DeWine's living room.
At that same meeting, the Ohio GOP endorsed Renacci for U.S. Senate over GOP challengers Mike Gibbons and Melissa Ackison. Gibbons is running for Senate again in 2022.
The Ohio Republican Party did not endorse in the contested U.S. Senate race this year. Given the number of candidates, it's unlikely that any candidate could have hit the higher threshold of votes – two-thirds of all members in open races – needed to win the state party's support.
Who else was endorsed?DeWine wasn't the only candidate whose endorsement received some heated debate.
Summit County GOP Chair Bryan Williams asked that Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose not be endorsed, saying LaRose was a "habitual violator" of campaign promises. LaRose had tried to remove Williams from the county board of elections.
Other members of the central committee defended LaRose as an honorable man who ran fair elections in Ohio.
In the end, the Ohio Republican Party endorsed LaRose over primary opponent John Adams, a former state lawmaker.
Other endorsed candidates were:
Limited access, little discussionMembers of the public weren't welcome at the Ohio Republican Party's meeting Friday after disruptions at the last couple of gatherings.
"There are serious public safety concerns. At the December meeting, several people received a lawful order from Delaware Sheriff’s Deputies to leave the meeting and they refused," Ohio Republican Party executive director Justin Bis wrote in an email to members. "Public attendees do not have a right to participate in and disrupt our meetings."
Opponents of the change say Bis was blowing safety concerns out of proportion, and party bylaws require meetings to be open to the public and press. The party also denied press credentials to at least two conservative media outlets. Ohio's open meeting laws don't apply to gatherings "for the purpose of conducting purely internal party affairs."
The Ohio Republican Party delivered an audit report that $640,000 written off by the party was a bookkeeping error and not theft. Committee member Mark Bainbridge, who has filed a lawsuit against the party, wasn't permitted to speak about the audit.
Burns also questioned why the party had donated to DeWine's campaign before he was an endorsed candidate. Paduchik did not permit discussion on the topic.