Saturday, December 4, 2021

DeWine's Purity Problem

Ohio GOP Gov. Mike DeWine is facing increasingly angry (and violent) Republicans who don't find him sufficiently loyal to Herr Trumpenfuhrer, and it spilled over into confrontation at Friday's party Central Committee meeting.

An Ohio Republican Party Central Committee meeting ended abruptly Friday after raucous opponents of Gov. Mike DeWine in the audience refused to leave even after party officials brought in sheriff’s deputies.

The decision to adjourn the meeting because of heckling and interruptions from the audience came after Ohio GOP Chair Bob Paduchik and other state party leaders themselves engaged in an often-heated debate with several committee members over party contributions given to DeWine’s re-election campaign.

The boisterous meeting is the latest illustration of how divisive DeWine, a Greene County Republican, has become among Ohio conservatives. DeWine has built strong Republican connections during his 40-plus years in politics, but there has been growing discontent on the farther right -- both within the state GOP and among activists -- about many of his actions in office, such as stay-at-home and business closure orders issued in the early weeks of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Ex-U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Columbus-area farmer Joe Blystone are challenging DeWine in next year’s primary, though DeWine has significantly more money and name recognition than either challenger.

The state GOP’s central committee was unusually contentious from the start. Debates broke out on usually mundane agenda items such as approving the minutes of the previous meeting and the treasurer’s report.

Friday’s meeting agenda included five proposed resolutions -- an “unprecedented” number, Paduchik said -- that sought to, among other things, demand the return of nearly $900,000 the state GOP gave DeWine’s campaign in cash and in-kind contributions.

Another resolution sought to expand an audit of party finances, ordered after Paduchik announced a roughly $640,000 accounting error, which involved past party contributions to former Rep. Steve Stivers. The effort to expand the audit to include the years 2017 and 2018 has a political significance, as Jane Timken -- now a candidate for U.S. Senate -- was state party chair at the time.

The sponsor of that resolution, committee member Mark Bainbridge, criticized state party treasurer Dave Johnson about party finances, leading Johnson to reply, “I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”

Bainbridge and four other committee members filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Republican Party earlier this week over the financial issues.

Both those resolutions and a third attempting to reverse Paduchik’s reorganization of standing committee members were tabled.

As the debate among committee members began, demonstrators in the audience, crowded together in the back of a room at a conference center in suburban Columbus, began to jeer Paduchik and supporters, leading Paduchik to issue multiple warnings to them to quiet down.

After the vote on the third resolution, committee member LeeAnn Johnson said the audience was harassing committee members and trying to participate in voice votes. That led the central committee to adjourn and Paduchik to order everyone to leave the room except committee members and credentialed media.

When some audience members remained in the room after several minutes, the committee voted to end the meeting. Sheriff’s deputies entered the room, though a reporter didn’t see the deputies attempting to forcibly remove anyone from the premises.

The demonstrators came from a number of other places around Ohio, representing a variety of groups. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Pukita urged supporters on social media to attend the meeting.

Christine Gingerich, a member of a Canton-based group called “We The People,” said she came to the meeting because she heard -- inaccurately, as it turned out -- that the central committee might vote to endorse DeWine for re-election. Charlotte Chipps of Morrow County, who’s helping Blystone’s campaign, said she attended for the same reason.

The state GOP central committee will meet next on Feb. 4, 2022, said party spokeswoman Tricia McLaughlin. It remains to be seen whether the committee will take up the two resolutions it didn’t get to on Friday, both of which seek to reduce the number of central committee members eligible to vote on endorsing DeWine in the 2022 GOP primary.
There's no guarantee that Gov. DeWine will even be the GOP candidate at this point, let alone get another term.  We'll see.

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