Gov. John Kasich’s governing sidekick for the last six and one-half years, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, is hoping her co-stewardship helps her as she plunges into the Republican race for governor in 2018 with an endorsement in hand from Ohio’s term-limited, lame-duck leader.
Taylor runs the state insurance department in addition to her duties as lieutenant governor and was the go-to official Kasich put in charge of the administration’s push against regulations that team Kasich-Taylor say keep Ohio from running “at the speed of business.”
Taylor, 51, joins three other GOP governorship hopefuls: Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci. At her announcement event in Cleveland on Friday, she set her campaign’s course based on what she claims are Kasich’s bigger accomplishments, key among them are righting the economy, reducing regulations, fighting opioid addiction, and cutting taxes.
“I am eager for this campaign to begin, to challenge the status quo,” Taylor said, according to one published report from the Columbus Dispatch.
If she’s running against the status quo in Columbus, she’s running against herself. Renacci, who in Trump style has cranked up the status quo to mean running against corruption in Columbus, will have many targets to shoot at that Taylor is associated with in one way or another.
Whether corruption in Columbus during the Kasich-Taylor years approaches the level of corruption during Bob Taft’s year as governor (when Coingate exploded and voters vented their frustrations in the voting booth in 200), we don’t yet know. But there won’t be a shortage of bad governance by Republicans in Columbus for any GOP or Democratic candidate to take aim at.
Taylor said there’s more to do, but the chair of the Ohio Democratic Party weighed in on her vow to do more, arguing she’s done too much already that hasn’t worked well.
“Mary Taylor claims that she will ‘shake things up,’ but she has been part of the Columbus cabal of politicians that have created the very status quo that has resulted in Ohio’s sputtering economy,” Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper said on the heels of her announcement. “Ohio’s job growth has trailed the national average for 54 straight months, our education system has fallen from fifth in the nation to 22nd and we lead the nation in opioid overdose deaths.”
Pepper said what everyone knows to be true (maybe with the exception of her and her boss) – that there is no “Ohio miracle,” as Kasich claimed during his first term. While the nation was plugging along creating jobs to replace millions lost during the Great Recession of 2008, the sluggishness of job creation under Kasich has been a different story. Kasich promised to “move the needle” on creating jobs but has now reached 54 consecutive months of under-performing the national job-creation average.
Faithful readers of Plunderbund know that but for a public record request from Plunderbund back in June of 2014, revelations that two Taylor staffers were likely billing the state for hours that they were not actually in the office working would never have come to light. Taylor’s chief of staff and her assistant were forced to resign after Plunderbund broke the news and other media picked up on it.
Ohio’s economy was on the rise when Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland was defeated in 2010, but stalled on Kasich’s watch, prompting him to admit as much on national television shows. He blamed Kasich-Taylor’s poor performance on “headwinds from Washington,” but Capital Square watchers know where the blame lies.
It’s with team Kasich-Taylor’s penchant to cut taxes for the already rich, their vendetta against public schools, public school teachers and their unions, and their theft of billions in local government and school funds that were sequestered away in Ohio’s emergency fund, even though some of those billions are needed to combat Ohio’s nation-leading opioid crisis.
Kasich-Taylor’s budget razzle dazzle cleared a path for mediocrity that enabled the former congressman and Fox News political talker to claim earlier this year, rightfully, that “we’re on the verge of a recession.”
“Taylor has been at the helm as failed, trickle-down policies have held Ohio’s economy back and drained resources from communities and schools,” ODP Chair Pepper added. Taylor’s time on the job is tailor-made for both her Republican opponents.
Among Taylor’s crosses to bear is her stated opposition to Medicaid expansion (which now covers 725,000 Ohioans) that her boss successfully pursued over the wishes of his GOP-controlled legislature. The only Republican to win a statewide seat in 2006 when she ran for auditor, Mary Taylor used her CPA status to distinguish herself for a job she won by fewer than 50,000 votes statewide – almost 30,000 less than Kasich beat Strickland by four years later.
Kasich beat Strickland with the PR help of Taylor, who as state auditor in 2010 issued a politically exaggerated report that said Ohio was facing a budget hole of $8 billion. The budget-hole talking point Kasich used to beat up on Strickland was contrived, now that history shows Ohio was on the up-swing from the Great Recession before Strickland left office. In fact, Ohio was recovering so much that team Kasich-Taylor enjoyed a budget recovery of $1 billion and scores of thousands of jobs the new administration took credit for that it had nothing to do with.
Now that Obamacare is more popular than ever, Taylor’s hostility to federal insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion will be hard to wriggle out of. Ohio’s opioid crisis leads the nation, and consumers most of its funding from Medicaid, which pays about half the bill for all medication-assisted treatment in the state.
And for those who benefit from that treatment, which costs $1 billion with Washington paying about $650 million of the tab, voting for Taylor is like a patient voting for the funeral director as doctor. Moreover, more than 150,000 Ohioans with addiction or mental health disorders now have coverage through Medicaid expansion.
Taylor claims to be “the one candidate in this race who will challenge the system” by shaking things up and fighting “against the special interests — and fight for the people who want bold and decisive leadership.” She’s taken a card out of the basic Kasich deck, calling herself “a reformer and modernizer who gets things done.”
Taylor being sour on Medicaid expansion isn’t what voters want, so that tact won’t sweet her chances. Support from Kasich may be short-lived as well, as his star is already setting. As Republican candidates gear up for their own 2018 demolition derby, Taylor can’t stop the broad-sides she’ll take for what she has and has not done.