1. The Ohio Republican Party Chairman Saga: Conservatives Rejoice, then Grimace
With the help of conservatives in late 2012, Kasich made a power grab and ousted DeWine, whom conservatives saw as a liberal Chairman of the Ohio GOP. At the time conservatives hoped this would mark a more conservative ideological shift in the party, but some speculated that Team Kasich disposed of DeWine more to break up the power alliance between DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted. Reinforcing that thesis was Kasich’s next move: choosing another “liberal” chairman to take his place. Tom Zawistowski led a small but vocal fight against the new chairman, but ultimately lost the chairmanship vote.
2. Matt Borges Elected as Chairman of Ohio GOP
With the ouster of Kevin Dewine, Governor Kasich had free reign to elect whomever he wanted. He chose former Equality Ohio (homosexual rights/same sex marriage) lobbyist Matt Borges. Amidst the uproar of conservatives across the state, Borges has made major efforts to win over conservatives.
[MORE OCR Coverage of BORGES: “What Must Conservatives Do To Win, Part 1”]
3. Kasich’s Expansion of Medicaid
In an effort to balance the budget and obtain federal money for Ohio, Kasich decided to expand Medicaid. Or as conservatives describe it, “Kasich decided to sell Ohio’s soul for ten silver coins and angered fiscal conservatives everywhere.” Perhaps what smarted worst, though, was the method to what conservatives perceive as Kasich’s madness: seeking and obtaining authorization to expand Medicaid through the Controlling Board. (Don’t worry: we’ll cover this in #7, below.)
4. Heartbeat Bill Reintroduced
While 2012 brought to a fiery end to the controversial Ohio Heartbeat Bill, 2013 saw it resurrected (after a version passed in Arkansas), reintroduced in OH by Rep. Christina Hagan, but bogged down, stifled in committee. With little chance of bringing it to a vote under lame duck Speaker Bill Batchelder, Heartbeat supporters hope that the next Speaker brings a more positive view of the bill. Some heard rumors that Sen. Kris Jordan wanted to bring it out of the Senate, but also that GOP leadership, who view the bill as something akin to leprosy, threatened electoral consequences. Many pro-lifers remain frustrated by GOP leadership over their handling of the Heartbeat bill, though leadership did pass several restrictions on abortion in the new budget.
5. Portman’s Support of Gay Marriage
The public announcement of Senator Rob Portman’s emotional switch in support of same-sex marriage came as a sucker punch to Ohio conservatives. As one of the first major Republicans to come out in support of same-sex marriage, Portman helped throw gasoline on the firefight for the soul of the Republican Party. Many leading Ohio conservatives have vowed to oust Portman for his betrayal, no matter the cost. The long-term consequences of Portman’s actions are yet to be seen. His stance on homosexual adoption and his vote on ENDA have followed in line with his change of position.
[RELATED on OCR: “Portman Divides Ohio — Again”]
6. Common Core Angst and Proposed Repeal
“Common Core” challenged “Medicaid Expansion” for the title of “Policy Most Hated by Ohio Conservatives in 2013.” The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is set of standards and tests that effectively wrest control from local school districts consolidate the federal government’s influence over states’ education programs. It has ignited a firestorm across a wide spectrum of political beliefs and affiliations. With one effort to repeal already in the works (Rep. Andy Thompson of Marietta) and possibly more on the way, this issue will continue to be a controversy across Ohio and the nation in the years to come.
[ALSO on OCR: “Common Core Means Common Failure for States”]
7. Controlling Board Stomps on Ohio Legislature, Threatens Balance of Power
After the Ohio legislators allowed their spending bill to be changed and provisions to be taken out (including the one specifically prohibiting the expansion of Medicaid), Governor Kasich had the prohibition against Medicaid expansion taken out. Then, he appointed and directed his buddies on the previously obscure Controlling Board to use said Board to accept and approrpriate the Medicaid funding from the federal government. Legislators were angry that their legislative authority was usurped and ignored. A lawsuit ensued over the legality of the Controlling Board move. Though James Madison may have been rolling over in his grave, concerns about illegality were quickly dismissed by the courts, and Kasich’s Medicaid expansion rolled on.
[ALSO on OCR: “Kasich Has Created a Crisis”]
8. Ed FitzGerald Campaign Withers in Agony
Thanks to poor planning and a terrible choice as a running mate (someone should have told Ed that having a running mate that has a huge IOU to the government makes for a poor choice to help run and “reform” said government), FitzGerald’s campaign for governor has gotten off to a terrible start. So terrible in fact that he now has a potential challenger for the Democratic nomination: Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Commissioner Todd Portune. Instead of picking up steam to take on Kasich (already a tough task), FitzGerald may be mired in a battle for a party nomination that he once possessed by default. As my friend Adam Josefczyk told me the other day, “FitzGerald’s most competitive race may end up being against the Browns for “Most Epic Cleveland Implosion of the Year.’”
[RELATED on OCR: “Have You Heard of Mr. Ed?”]
9. Gay Marriage Proponents Announce Battle of the Ballot
This summer, Freedom To Marry Ohio wanted to put the repeal of the Ohio marriage amendment on the ballot. Equality Ohio and national SSM groups were more cautious about their electoral chances, taking FTMO’s Ian James to task for jumping the gun on 2014. Fast forward to now: Freedom to Marry went ahead and collected the signatures anyway; Equality Ohio has received national funding, campaign experts, and staff to expand their exploratory “education effort”; and Citizens for Community Values and other social conservative coalition groups are gearing up for a huge knock out fight of the future of marriage, family, and religious freedom in Ohio. Hold onto your hats, folks.
[RELATED on OCR: “If Marriage Is on Ballot in 2014, Kasich Will Win Big”]
10. Portman Fights It Out with Cleveland Right to Life
After throwing conservatives under the bus by publicly supporting same-sex marriage, Senator Portman immediately ran to the right on every other issue he could to save face with conservatives. When Senator Portman touted his (many would say newfound) fervor for the pro-life movement, Cleveland Right To Life called him out on it, and a massive battle and national debate ensued over what it means to be truly and fully “pro-life.”
RELATED on OCR: “Portman Divides Ohio — Again”]
11. TEA Party Vows Vengeance Against Kasich
The Ohio TEA Party has declared war on Governor Kasich’s re-election. Discontent reached a boiling point with Medicaid expansion was the perhaps the biggest issue. In speeches given at the “We The People Convention,” leaders of the Ohio Liberty Coalition vowed to defeat Kasich even if that meant committing what some would view as third-party-spoiler-suicide and allowing a Democrat to be elected governor. Their reasons? (1) It’s time that Republicans stop taking conservatives for granted and using and abusing them without consequences. (2) It’s time that the GOP realizes it needs conservatives instead of the other way around. And (3) a Republican legislature could bog down FitzGerald’s liberal agenda for the next four years; conversely, it could continue to advance Kasich’s “liberal” agenda. It is yet to be seen whether the TEA Party will or can make good on its threat.
12. Ohio Speaker Race Heats Up
Batchelder’s days as Speaker are coming to a close, and thanks to his largely moderate stances, Ohio conservatives are saying good riddance to the man once touted as a conservative champion. Meanwhile, the battle to replace him is heating up with Amstutz, Butler, Hall, Roegner, Rosenberger, and Terhar all jockeying to become the next gavel holder. Stay tuned to your Inside Baseball sources for the wheeling and dealing of how that will shake out.
13. Boehner To Step Down As Speaker?
Rumors abound that Boehner’s sick of being Obama’s whipping boy and is planning to step down as Speaker to let Eric Cantor or others take the abuse. Meanwhile, in Boehner’s home district, numerous underfunded ideological candidates are stepping up to challenge the seat and take advantage of “RINO hunting season.” Few consultants believe that any will succeed in unseating the Speaker of the House in a primary, but it is interesting to see so many “tire kickers” test the water. Will they energize grassroots enough to motivate a serious contender to enter the race and mount a challenge?
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.