A recent Ohio Republican Party (ORP) hit piece framing Republican legislative candidate Tom Brinkman as someone who “voted with Democrats” is emblematic of the Party’s attempts to crush conservative opposition.
“TOM BRINKMAN: RADICAL… BUT NOT RELIABLE,” blares the front of the ORP mailer, with a donkey next to a photo of Brinkman superimposed over President Obama’s campaign logo.
The back of the document asks, “Tom Brinkman Used His Vote to Support Democrats… How About You?”
Brinkman, who served two terms in the Ohio House from 2001-2008, was known as the “Tax Killer” because of his refusal to vote for legislation that increased taxes.
Brinkman is the founder of Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), one of Ohio’s most effective taxpayer advocacy groups.
The Party’s problem with Brinkman is that he’s more conservative than 27th Ohio House District incumbent Peter Stautberg, but that’s not a compelling narrative for ORP’s chosen candidate in the Republican primary.
Trying to associate Brinkman with Obama is complicated further by the fact that ORP embraced the Obamacare Medicaid expansion the moment Republican Governor John Kasich decided the policy would benefit him politically.
Someone at ORP has more faith in bold text flanked by donkeys than in the ability of voters to inform themselves on the issues.
“Stautberg, who supports Common Core education initiatives, has done hardly anything to stop Obama Care in Ohio,” Brinkman has asserted of the Party-backed incumbent.
The 27th House District primary is one of many examples of ORP admonishing conservatives to support big-government candidates for the sake of Republican unity in one breath and attacking conservative Republicans in the next.
In Clermont County, ORP has sent voter guides instructing Republicans to vote for incumbent state central committee member Kay Reynolds even though the Clermont County Republican Party has endorsed her challenger, Jacki Block.
Much of the election-season conflict is rooted in ORP’s need to appear interested in policy when Party leadership’s real goal is spinning whatever Red Team vs. Blue Team rhetoric it takes to put allies in office.
“If there are ‘tea partiers’ who want to identify themselves that way that want to help us work to reelect Governor Kasich, and want to help us work in two years to reelect Senator Portman, and want to help us get our statewide team reelected — people who are doing the right things for Ohio — my hand’s extended to anyone who wants to be part of the cause,” ORP Chairman Matt Borges told reporters in February.
Emphasis added. Ohioans turned off by Kasich’s dishonest attempts to reboot the concept of “compassionate conservatism” need not apply.
So far as Borges is concerned, it’s fine for voters to have different expectations of what a Republican governor with Republican legislative supermajorities should accomplish; it’s not fine for voters to reject incumbents who display open animosity towards them.
This may be the attitude that prompted primary challenges from Brinkman and the dozens of other candidates endorsed by Ohio Citizens PAC.