INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine showed up at the Cuyahoga County Republican Party endorsement meeting Saturday expecting a victory. Instead, challenger Jim Renacci grabbed the GOP endorsement.
“Our campaign to deliver accountable conservative leadership to Ohio continues to surge and we are thrilled to have the support of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party,” Renacci told The Ohio Press Network (OPN).
DeWine entered the Independence Civic Center to cheers from members of his welcoming committee—people who are part of the DeWine reelection campaign who attended to whip support. The mood quickly changed, however, when the governor entered the event space where members of the county central committee and executive committee were assembled.
“He was clearly booed by the crowd when he was introduced to the members,” said Cuyahoga County Republican Party Central and Executive Committee member Shannon Burns, who spoke to the group on behalf of Renacci Saturday. Burns also serves on the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee (ORP SCC).
“That’s why they didn’t have DeWine come out of his basement to attend the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee meeting in February because he would have been booed there too,” Burns told OPN.
DeWine was endorsed at a contentious ORP SCC meeting on February 18 but didn’t bother to attend the meeting. His challenger, Jim Renacci, attended but was not permitted to talk before an endorsement vote was cast. DeWine won the endorsement 36-26. Seventeen of the individuals who are members of the State Central Committee are employed by DeWine or were appointed or re-appointed by him.
OPN contacted the DeWine and Husted campaign and asked for a comment on the endorsement that appeared to have gotten away from them, but spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin would not provide a comment.
A resolution was on Saturday’s agenda that would have called for a vote to endorse DeWine but after the meeting began and the time for the vote arrived, a move to replace DeWine’s name with Renacci’s was made.
It was at this point that DeWine exited -- before the results were reported. The vote was taken by secret ballot and successfully made the switch.
“DeWine’s team worked the list of committee members before the meeting and thought they had the votes, which is why the governor was there. The secret ballot was important because it allowed people to do what they truly wanted to without fear of repercussion,” Burns said.
Next, a division of the room vote was taken, and Renacci’s endorsement was approved by 50 more than opposed: 123-73.
“That’s consistent with the polling. DeWine has about 37% support based on polling we’re performing and reviewing. DeWine’s support is soft and Blystone is faltering. There is no doubt at this point in my mind that Renacci has the wind at his back,” said Burns.
An Emerson College poll released late February showed DeWine leading with 34% of the vote, but another poll conducted in March by Beacon/Shaw Research showed the 40-year-politician with 50% of the vote among poll respondents.
However, in the Beacon/Shaw survey DeWine had a 63% favorable rating and a 34% unfavorable number, but only 28% “strongly” favored DeWine.
For contrast, 78% of the same people polled gave former President Donald Trump a favorable mark with 58% of them “strongly” favoring the 45th president. If Trump weighs in on the gubernatorial race, his vote of confidence will matter and conservative Republicans don’t have the strength of support for DeWine as they do for Trump.
Joe Blystone delivered a stump speech to the Cuyahoga County crowd. OPN contacted the Canal Winchester farmer for comment, but he did not respond. Ron Hood, the fourth Republican in the race, did not attend.
Renacci is a resident of Wadsworth in Medina County, just south of Cuyahoga.
Gibbons grabs endorsement
Cleveland investment banker Mike Gibbons was endorsed by the central and executive committees Saturday on his home turf.
“I’m honored to have received the endorsement of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party. I am a lifelong resident of the county, and it is reassuring to know that the people of greater Cleveland are ready for real conservative leadership in Washington. I am proud to be that candidate,” Mike Gibbons said.
Gibbons is locked in a close race with former two-term Treasurer of Ohio and Cleveland- area native Josh Mandel as “Hillbilly Elegy” writer and investor J.D. Vance ranks third in most polls and garnered recent attention in the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
Cleveland-area attorney and Ohio State Senator Matt Dolan stumped Saturday but didn’t garner enough support from his hometown crowd as his family-run enterprise, the Cleveland Major League Baseball franchise, will open the season after bowing to political pressure to blot out the name “Indians”—originally chosen to honor the first Native American to play professional baseball—in exchange for a more politically correct moniker.
Miller met with approval
In the race to replace retiring Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, the Cuyahoga Republicans meted out an endorsement to Trump-endorsed Max Miller. Miller worked as a White House aide before being promoted to a Trump senior advisor.
Miller talked to OPN in a phone interview. “When I entered this race last year, after earning the support of President Trump, I promised to campaign every day and earn the support of every voter in this district. It’s an honor to be endorsed by the Cuyahoga County Republican Party,” said Miller. “Their support is the culmination of much hard work after spending the last year listening, learning and earning the trust of this community. It’s hardworking activists like the Cuyahoga Republicans who will fuel us to victory in May and November. I’m grateful to have them in my corner.”
“My campaign remains focused on the issues that matter—ending illegal immigration, rebuilding the economy, and ensuring good jobs and safe cities---and that’s why we are winning,” Miller added. “As we enter into the homestretch of the Primary election, I will continue to campaign and fight for every vote, and I will continue advocating for the America First agenda that made America great."