The worst kept secret in Columbus right now is that the FBI has started looking into Kasich’s staff and allies over allegations they used unethical and possibly illegal threats and promises in their ongoing struggle to oust Kevin DeWine as Chairman of the Republican State Central Committee.
Unfortunately for Kasich, it looks like he may have put himself and his friends in this potentially calamitous position for nothing. Despite their announcements of success in the recent committee elections, Kasich has some problems that seem to indicate he may not have the support he needs to win control.
The first clue: DeWine is still in power and no one has called for a vote to replace him. If Kasich supporters did win a majority of seats in the recent elections then they could have called for a vote already. According to the bylaws of the Central Committee, any 15 members can call a meeting as long as they provide the rest of the members 5 days notice. And as long as a majority of the members participate they’ll have a quorum allowing them to transact any business of the committee – including calling for a vote on the chairman.
If Kasich has so much support in the committee, why hasn’t he called for a vote yet?
The other problem: Kasich doesn’t officially have a candidate to replace DeWine. The list we’ve been hearing for a few weeks is: Doug Preisse, Jo Ann Davidson and Betty Montgomery. Blogger Justin Higgens has the same list with Alex Arshinkoff added.
It’s hard to enough to drum up support for a non-existent candidate. But Kasich’s potential candidates all have their own issues that might make it difficult for Kasich to hold on to some of his supporters once the name is officially announced.
While Kasich is getting support from Tea Party Republicans because of their distrust (disgust?) of DeWine, the people mentioned above are going to be a hard (read: impossible) sell to many hardcore social conservatives and Tea Party supporters. The reasons range from being pro-choice to being openly gay, but I think it’s sufficient to say: if any of the people on this list end up challenging DeWine, Kasich can count on losing some of his supporters on the committee.
The last problem Kasich faces is the heavy handed way in which he approached this challenge. We know Kasich has used his position as Governor to influence the makeup of the committee. And while the threats and intimidation and ‘bribes’ may have won over some fearful friends, they also created some even more resolute enemies.
The case of Andrew Manning, Portage County Republican Party Chairman, is probably the most notable. Manning was offered “influence” if he would drop out of the committee race. He was so concerned over the behavior of Kasich’s allies that he asked the FBI to open investigation into the matter.
We also know he has used threats. An ethics complaint filed two weeks ago details four individual cases of threats used by Kasich’s staff and allies related to Kasich’s quest for control of the committee.
And this week heard rumors that Mary Taylor may have been responsible for similar acts of intimidation against two committee members on her staff. Taylor and her Chief of Staff Laura Johnson supposedly placed serious pressure on two of her employees (and members of the state central committee) to vote with the Governor and speak out against DeWine. They even attended the most recent committee meeting to ensure one of the employees complied. We should have more on this soon.
It’s also worth noting that the bylaws of the Republican State Central Committee require that a secret ballot be used for all votes, which undoubtedly makes Kasich supporters nervous. You can bribe or intimidate people all you want, but it does little good if you can’t actually monitor their votes to see if they followed through.
What it all boils down to is this: Kasich and his team are talking like they have won enough seats on the State Central Committee to vote out DeWine, but since they haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity, you really have to wonder. And even if they did have the votes, they haven’t announced a candidate – most likely because the candidates on their short list can’t win support from the extreme right wing of the party.
In the mean time, it appears as though Kasich’s threats and intimidation have made enough enemies in his own party to cause fellow Republicans to file ethics complaints and ask for federal investigations into his actions.
In the middle of a presidential election year the Republican Governor of Ohio SHOULD be raising money to help beat Democrats, especially President Obama. Instead he has thrown his own party into disarray, forcing everyone to spend millions of dollars on internal battles over control of the Republican State Central Committee. And the longer he waits to announce a candidates, the more the fighting goes on, and the more support Kasich is going to likely to lose.
Personally I’d like to see this fight go on and on as long as possible. But if Kasich really does have the support he says he does, he’s going to need to put up or shut up very soon.