John Kasich has lost considerable power since his failed 2016 presidential run. In addition to having his dream of occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. elude him, he also lost his control of the Ohio Republican Party.
Now, it appears that Kasich is trying to regain his vice-like grip on the Ohio Republican Party. This power move by Team Kasich is pitting them squarely against grassroots activists and President Trump’s allies in the battleground state.
Kasich’s loss of control over the state party is an important part of the puzzle that is his story. Controlling the party allowed him to exert pressure on elected Ohio Republicans to support him.
Whoever controls the 66 members of the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee, controls the party. One woman and one man from each State Senate district are elected to serve this role that most voters aren’t even aware of. These committee members elect the Chairman and vote on endorsements, which makes them rather powerful positions in Ohio politics.
Every seat on the State Central Committee is up for re-election this spring in the Republican primary. Team Kasich has planted their seeds to regain control of the committee and the accompanying treasures.
Challengers began popping up in races throughout the state. Many of them had the same story to tell. While one candidate reports that Kasich personally called him to urge him to run for State Central Committee, others said they had been recruited by Rob Frost and Alex Thomas. Frost is the Chairman of the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County and a member of the State Central Committee. Thomas is a former personal aide to Kasich and works with the failed presidential candidate’s comrade Matt Borges who was ousted as ORP Chair last year.
This is relevant because many believe it confirms that Kasich is trying to regain control of the party in preparation for a third failed attempt to become president. If his puppets control the party, they can withhold President Trump’s re-election endorsement and prevent him from using party resources in this important battleground state. Or even endorse Kasich in a primary challenge, squandering hard-earned resources on another losing campaign for the increasingly unpopular governor.
Following Donald Trump’s election, Borges, Kasich’s hand-picked Chairman of the party lost by one vote to Jane Timken. Timken supported Kasich in the primary but realized that ship had sailed and supported Trump in the general election.
Thomas left voicemails for candidates throughout the state. Two of these voicemails have been shared with me. In them, Thomas says he’s calling on behalf of Rob Frost.
Thomas is also running for State Central Committee. When asked if he would support Chairman Jane Timken if he is elected, Thomas refused to commit, saying that he was focusing on his race and hadn’t made a determination on who he would support for Chairman when the current term expires. “I don’t know. I can’t answer that question,” Thomas flummoxed.
The Republican Party of Cuyahoga County has gaping holes on the ballot. Several State Representative candidates failed to file valid petitions. The party also doesn’t have a candidate for County Executive. This is viewed as the second most powerful position in the state and the current Executive is under investigation. Frost was apparently so busy fielding Kasich friendly State Central Committee candidates that he failed to get local candidates, which is his primary job.
Control of the Ohio Republican Party is a key component to political power in Ohio.
During the 2016 general election, Kasich’s allies in the Ohio Republican Party were caught red-handed using a fake Twitter account to attack the Trump campaign and current RNC Co-Chair Bob Paduchik.
At that time, I sat on the Policy Committee of the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County. I brought up the ORP’s fake Twitter account attacking the Trump campaign at the meeting after breaking that story. When questioned, Frost said it was “absolutely the right thing” for the Ohio Republican Party to create this fake account attacking the Republican Nominee for President. He also said that Bob Paduchik would never work in Ohio politics again.
Frost’s predictions didn’t hold as Trump won not only Ohio and the presidency, Kasich’s ORP Chair was ousted, and Paduchik is now RNC Co-Chair. Now, Frost appears to be making a power play for control of the Ohio Republican Party in anticipation of the 2020 election.