John Kasich has been trying to oust Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine since at least November 2010. That’s 3 months longer than he has officially been serving as Governor of Ohio. 16 months in total.
Last week DeWine finally agreed to step down, to be replaced by former Chairman Bob Bennett. There’s no doubt that the basic goal of John Kasich’s “Oust DeWine” effort was successful. But did Kasich really “win”?
Kasich’s lobbyist friends have worked long and hard to make this happen. Kasich’s staff too. Many circulated petitions – often during work hours – to get Kasich-friendly central committee candidates on the ballot. They attended committee meetings – also during the work day – to fight for Kasich. They did things that have been characterized as unethical and possibly illegal – pressuring some fellow Republicans, and promising others the world – all so Kasich could put one of his close friends and allies in charge of the State Central Committee in order to gain control of the big money and support that comes with it.
Again I’ll ask: Did Kasich really win? Did his long, heated battle to oust DeWine provide him with total control over the central committee like he wanted?
As we’ve discussed before, Kasich appears to have been pushing to put one his his close friends like Doug Preisse or Jo Anne Davidson at the helm. But he ended up having to settle for Bob Bennett, who had served as party chair from 1988 to 2009 and is seen as a fair and relatively neutral presence that would appease the Kasich people but not threaten existing office holders and candidates like Husted, Mike Dewine and Josh Mandel.
It seems unlikely Kasich’s staff, friends and allies would have go through so much trouble and personal risk had they known who DeWine’s replacement was going to be. And while Bennett certainly does seem like a smart choice for anyone interested in quickly healing the divide that the Kasich/DeWine battle has brought to the party, it would be easy to argue that the appointment of Bennett is the exact opposite of a win for Kasich, especially since Bennett appears to be showing signs he’s not going to be Kasich’s lapdog.
On Thursday Doug Preisse (lobbyist, Franklin County Republican Party Chairman, close friend of John Kasich and the man personally responsible spearheading the entire oust DeWine effort) told the AP that Bennett would be taking over temporarily to replace DeWine giving “the state GOP time to find another chairman at the end of the year.” According to Preisse, Bennett has “indicated that he’s ready to assume and accept these leadership abilities”, but he is “not interested in a second, long-term career as chairman.”
The very next day, Bennett told Joe Hallet of the Dispatch that he doesn’t just want to be interim chairman, instead “he will seek a full two-year term in January as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.”
Kasich wanted to oust DeWine and replace him with one of his friends, and was willing to rip the party apart in order to do it. And when things finally finished, he ended up with the “settle” guy who is already showing he’s not going to follow Kasich’s orders.
This battle has likely wasted millions in money that should have been going to help elect Republicans this fall. Kasich’s personal vendetta again DeWine has put some of his current and former staffers (Chabria, Kaiser and Luketic immediately come to mind) into a position where local and federal law enforcement may be looking into their actions. This battle has ripped the Ohio Republican Party apart in a year when they should be focusing on the Presidential election and defeating Senator Brown.
So did Kasich win? Kind of. But in order to get to his half-assed victory, the entire Ohio Republican Party had to lose. And the fact that Kasich has never seemed to care about the damage he’s caused, the people he’s hurt or the tactics that have been used in his name really speaks volumes about the guy we have running our state right now.