Ohio Republican Party endorses Gov. Mike DeWine and other incumbent statewide officeholders
But the party didn't pick a candidate in the hotly contested and crowded US Senate race.
Even before the Ohio Republican Party's State Central Committee meeting started, members were met with protestors who stood inside the front door. They were holding signs to make sure all who entered the North Columbus facility knew why they thought the party's committee shouldn't endorse Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose.
Once members made their way down the hallway past the protesters, they still weren't free of protest. Voices were raised. Insults were hurled. And for about four hours, some State Central Committee members brought up amendment after amendment, all of which were eventually defeated. One would have required all members of the committee who worked in a state agency or served on a state board to recuse themselves from voting on endorsements. Another would have required each candidate to be considered individually rather than as part of a slate.
Some members took issue with Secretary of State Frank LaRose, including Bryan Williams, who LaRose tried to remove from the Summit County Board of Elections last year. Williams told the crowd LaRose violated his own oath of office over and over again. But LeeAnn Johnson, wife of Congressman Bill Johnson, praised LaRose, who is being challenged by former state lawmaker John Adams, for fighting Democrats in court on ballot boxes and requiring ballot signatures. Those are moves she said, "helped to deliver more presidential votes for President Trump than ever before in the state of Ohio." In the end, the committee chose to include LaRose on the slate of candidates.
Some of the same committee members who didn't like LaRose also weren't fond of Gov. Mike DeWine. Take Melanie Lenaghan for example. She said DeWine's approval rating is low and added it would be an"embarrassment" if the committee endorsed him. She said he could lose the primary to one of his opponents - farmer Joe Blystone, former state lawmaker Ron Hood or former Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci, who sat through much of the debate but left just before the committee made its final endorsement.
After a secret ballot vote, members voted 36-26 to endorse all of the non-judicial Republican statewide officeholders on one slate. And now, those candidates will be able to get the perks of being endorsed. They'll likely get campaign assistance from the party, can have their names listed on the party's slate card given to voters, and will be able to use other party resources for their primary campaigns.
After the meeting, Tom Weyant with Renacci’s campaign said the move wasn’t unexpected but added it’s not smart either.
“DeWine’s popularity is at an all-time low. He has about a 30 to 35% base in the Republican party," Weyant said.
Later, in a written statement, Ohio Republican Party Chair Bob Paduchik says the experienced slate of incumbent candidates will continue to deliver results for Ohio’s working class.
There was no endorsement issued in the US Senate race, in contrast to what the Ohio Democratic Party had done the day before.
Supporters of long-shot Republican candidate Mark Pukita had asked the party not to endorse in the US Senate race - or in any race.
For most of the candidates in this race, the endorsement of former President Trump is the most valuable one. Trump hasn't endorsed anyone but has said he will - but it's unclear whether that will happen before the primary.
However, retiring Sen. Rob Portman, who the candidates want to replace, issued an endorsement for Jane Timken this week.
Rob Portman has endorsed Jane Timken in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race for the Republican nomination…the 2022 race is for Portman’s seat after announcing he wouldn’t run for re-election— Andy Chow (@andy_chow) February 16, 2022