Three of the six Ohio House members who challenged Republican Governor John Kasich’s enactment of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in court have been denied the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party (ORP).
Questioned after a February 28 ORP Central Committee meeting where the committee voted on its 2014 slate, Party Chairman Matt Borges told reporters the House GOP caucus did not recommend Rep. John Becker (R-Union Twp.) or Rep. Ron Maag (R-Salem Twp.) for endorsement.
Borges claimed he didn’t know why their names were not submitted.
Later that day, Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Chrissie Thompson cited an anonymous House GOP source who told her Becker, Maag, and Rep. Ron Hood (R-Ashville) were not endorsed because they “have not supported the unity of the Republican Party.”
House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) is a close ally of Gov. Kasich. Despite resisting months of pressure from the governor to expand Medicaid last year, Batchelder ultimately helped Kasich circumvent his caucus for Obamacare funding.
“What’s really confusing about what’s going on here is, this is unprecedented,” Rep. Becker told Media Trackers on March 3. “The caucus has never blackballed people before, unless they’re under indictment or have multiple DUIs or something of that nature.”
Of six Republican legislators who sued to stop Gov. Kasich’s legally dubious Obamacare expansion, just two — Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) and Rep. Ron Young (R-Leroy Twp.) — now have ORP’s support for their reelection campaigns.
The sixth, Rep. Matt Lynch (R-Bainbridge Twp.), is challenging ORP-endorsed incumbent Congressman Dave Joyce after an ORP field director’s wife decided to run for Lynch’s Ohio House seat.
Becker and Hood were also the only two legislators to vote against putting an infrastructure bond increase on the ballot this May. Like Rep. Lynch, both voted against Kasich’s latest biennial budget.
As the Enquirer noted, Maag is supporting a primary candidate against Rep. Pete Beck (R-Mason), who currently faces dozens of felony charges and is the only other incumbent candidate ORP intentionally declined to endorse.
Youngstown Vindicator reporter Marc Kovac published an ORP endorsement list on March 4 that did not include Becker, Hood, or Maag. The list of endorsed candidates excluded incumbents Rep. Doug Green (R-Mt. Orab) and Rep. Bob Hackett (R-London), as well.
Responding to a Media Trackers inquiry, Ohio House GOP spokesman Mike Dittoe confirmed that Green and Hackett were excluded by mistake.
As recently as February 5, an Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee (OHROC) release indicated that “the 52 incumbent members seeking re-election” had the support of leadership. OHROC is chaired by House Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Huffman (R-Lima).
“Chairman Huffman, Speaker Batchelder and the three members discussed last week are working out these issues individually and ultimately it is the leadership’s hope that these issues can be and will be resolved soon,” Dittoe told Media Trackers.
“This particular list that got voted on, it’s my understanding there was no discussion,” Rep. Becker explained. “Nobody went down the list and said, ‘Well, you know, these people are excluded for whatever reason.’ No; it was just rubber-stamped.”
“The members of the state central committee had no idea that anybody was excluded,” Becker continued. “They had no idea until after — until, actually, they heard it from me.”
Rep. Becker was never informed he may not be endorsed, and learned that he hadn’t been endorsed when a Gongwer reporter emailed to ask about it last week.
“Apparently all of this was done in a very tight circle very close to the speaker,” Becker added, concluding, “It’s a mystery.”