Ohio GOP infighting sets up fierce gubernatorial primary fight

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — When Lt. Governor Mary Taylor strode into the conference room she looked confident, collected, and fired up. Committee members clapped as she approached the podium.

She had something to say, and she certainly took the opportunity to air her grievances with the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee Friday morning.

She was the first of several candidates running for a state or federal office to address the committee with a five minute speech. It was a last opportunity to convince members of the committee she deserved their support through an endorsement.

She began with a cordial greeting.

“Good morning, thank you for joining me here in Mike DeWine’s living room,” said Taylor.

The room was very quiet.

She then acknowledged the press, and mentioned that it was good they were present to televise DeWine’s coronation.

Her words dripped with venom, and the heat burning in her eyes was unmistakable. She had no intention of trying to win any supporters in this room.

After explaining how she felt she would be the best candidate for the nomination, she once again took a swipe at DeWine and the party establishment.

“His entire campaign has been built on the air of inevitability; a false belief that it is his turn,” said Taylor.

DeWine and his wife Fran watched from the back of the room, the State Attorney General clutching the back of a chair.

Then Taylor dropped all pretenses completely.

“I’m not asking for your endorsement here today,” said Taylor. “With all of the good ol’ boy bullying and backroom deals that have got us to this point; I’m not sure I even want it.”

People clapped for Taylor after her speech, but noticeably the applause was mostly from the campaign staff and supporters that came with her.

She looked as confident walking out as she did walking in. She had said her peace; the outcome was already set in her mind.

“It was easy to draw conclusions about what my chances would be in this room today,” said Taylor. “The establishment has spoken pretty loud and clear.”

They did indeed. The committee voted 59-2 to endorse DeWine after Taylor’s stunt.

DeWine himself expressed disappointment over Taylor’s speech.

“I’m very, very kinda sad about her speech,” said DeWine. “But it’s not what we’re talking about; what we’re talking about is the future.”

DeWine and his running mate Jon Husted tag teamed their endorsement speech which was decisively more campaign rally sounding in style. They actually asked for the endorsement of the committee.

If that were the end of the story, you may think that Taylor just did what she felt she needed to do against an opponent who has nearly three times as much money as she does and the support of decades of connections in the political world.

But that isn’t the end of the story.

The last candidate to address the committee Friday was Sandra O’Brien. She’s running for State Treasurer.

After explaining how she felt she was the most qualified individual to be the GOP’s nominee for Treasurer, she began to echo strands of what Taylor was saying at the beginning of the meeting.

“We Republicans have a problem,” said O’Brien. “A women problem.”

There are roughly 107 Ohio Republicans serving in elected positions at the state and federal level; only 13 of them are women.

O’Brien decried the endorsement process saying that it unfairly eliminates women candidates.

“Women are less likely to receive committee endorsements,” said O’Brien. “It’s a catch-22. No money, no endorsements; no endorsements, no money. The endorsement process has to stop.”

She also points out that many women enter politics later in life than their male counterparts who have the advantage of years of networking over them as a result.

Like Taylor, O’Brien wants the voters to decide at the polls who they think should be the nominee for a particular race.

They want that decision to be free from the influence of the State Central Committee. They see an endorsement from the organization as telling voters who they should vote for.

By eliminating the endorsements politicians would be forced to reach out to voters on their own, which is how both Taylor and O’Brien are hoping to win their primaries.

They’ll have to do a lot of campaigning though; the Committee endorsed both of their male opponents.

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