The Trump stakes have begun in the 2018 Ohio governor’s race.
Three of the GOP’s top four contenders praised President Donald Trump while addressing hundreds during the Northeast Hamilton County Republican Club’s annual pancake breakfast on Saturday in Sharonville.
Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Congressman Jim Renacci graced the same stage for the first time in the race to replace term-limited Gov. John Kasich. Husted was the only contender who didn’t make a blatant overture to Trump supporters, but the secretary of state still made a brief reference to the president.
Trump decisively won Ohio in November and took control of the state GOP two months later when Cincinnati native Jane Timken became party chair. Winning support from Trump backers could be the key to emerging from the Republican primary next spring. Timken introduced each of the contenders, who one-by-one came onto the stage to address a who’s-who of Southwest Ohio Republicans.
Here’s what each had to say about Trump:
• Quick look: The Northeast Ohioan is the only official candidate after she established a campaign committee last week. Her speech was mostly talking points about job growth and cliches about bucking the status quo.
• What she said about Trump: “On his seventh business day in office, President Trump signed an executive order requiring the federal government to cut two regulations before enacting a new one. That is bold action that warms this accountant’s heart. Cutting red tape is about returning government to the people. … So what President Trump is doing in Washington, we’ve actually been doing here in Ohio for over 2,000 days. We are making sure government is accountable to the people.”
• Quick look: Right now, it’s generally thought the race is DeWine’s to lose. As the state’s top attorney, he said he feels like he’s in a job that’s more reactionary to issues such as the heroin crisis. He is running for governor to “get ahead of things” in addressing education and drug issues.
• What he said about Trump: DeWine had the most to say. The former U.S. Senator praised Timken. DeWine mentioned his visit to the White House earlier in the week, when he joined other state attorney generals in meeting with Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been under fire for his contact with Russian officials last year.
On Timken: “Let me just say, Jane is doing a great job as our state chairman. If you’ve not gotten to know her yet, please do so. She is a fighter and she’s going to be out there fighting for us. Jane, you’re doing a great job.”
On Sessions: “I had the opportunity to serve with Jeff for 10 years on the Senate Judiciary Committee. When you sit with someone for 10 years on a committee, you get to know their heart, you get to know their soul and you get to know their mind. And let me just tell you, this is a man of great, great integrity. This is a man who’s going to be a great attorney general.”
On Trump nominating Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court: “With Hillary Clinton, that court would have been gone for decades. Literally decades.”
On meeting Trump: “He was calm, cool, collected.”
• Quick look: Husted took a different approach with his 10-minute speech, choosing to tell his personal story. He spent the first two months of his life in a Detroit foster home before being adopted by a working-class family from a small town in Northwest Ohio. Husted went on to become an all-American football player at the University of Dayton, having risen from seventh string running back when he first arrived on campus. He transitioned into talking about the “American dream,” and said people are frustrated about achieving it because government is broken.
• What he said about Trump: “Barack Obama won Ohio by 3 points and Donald Trump won it by 8. In just four years, 11 percent of Ohioans decided that they thought Barack Obama was the best person for the job and now they think Donald Trump is. They’re frustrated with seeing systems that don’t work.”
• Quick look: The Northeast Ohioan is viewed as somewhat of an “outsider,” mainly because he’s spent most of his career in business. He comes from a blue collar background, the son of a railroad worker from Western Pennsylvania. These are reasons why many insiders believe Renacci has the best chance to appeal to Trump supporters. Renacci began building his wealth by owning several nursing homes across the state. His first nursing home was in Felicity, a small village in southeast Clermont County. General Moters’ bankruptcy deal with the federal government in 2009 forced Renacci to close his Chevy dealership. He said he loathes government’s interference in business.
• What he said about Trump: “Washington has been a very frustrating place for me. We have to find a way to make government realize that they work for us. That’s why I was so happy to see a business man step into the arena and run for president. I was so happy to see a guy take on what’s been broken for years.”