DeWine's skillful hand will keep Republicans in driver's seat
Sunday, November 21, 2010 03:01 AM
BY JOE HALLETT
The Columbus Dispatch
Driving home to Fairborn after speaking to college Republicans at Miami University on a night last January, Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine called Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost, who was en route home from the Clermont County GOP's annual dinner.
John Kasich, the party's endorsed candidate for governor, had just selected state Auditor Mary Taylor as his running mate. Yost, the former Delaware County auditor, was headed for a May primary election showdown for attorney general against former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, Kevin's second cousin, although they are not close.
The party needed a candidate for auditor, and Yost had the experience. Kevin DeWine asked whether Yost would consider a switch, promising the party's support. About a week later, Yost dropped his bid for attorney general.
"In the history of this two-year campaign, I will go back and circle that point in time when all of that was going on," Kevin DeWine said.
In January, Yost will be inaugurated as Ohio's auditor and Mike DeWine will become attorney general. Giving DeWine, a millionaire, an unchallenged path to the GOP nomination for attorney general against the superbly funded incumbent Democrat, Richard Cordray, was crucial. DeWine ended up loaning his campaign at least $1.9million.
"A less-competitive candidate against Cordray would have allowed Cordray to spend money against other Republican candidates," Kevin DeWine said. "The importance of that can't be overstated as to its value to the rest of the statewide ticket."
Kevin DeWine's skillful orchestration of a near-perfect election for the Ohio GOP makes him a shoo-in for another two-year term when the party's central committee meets in January, about the time Kasich and Taylor are inaugurated.
His counterpart, Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern, won't face re-election until 2012. Despite some grumbling, there appears to be no serious move to oust Redfern or any evidence that he has lost the support of his party's governing body.
Beholding his party's carnage a day after the election, Redfern told me: "We have been here before. The Republicans were just here at this intersection. I didn't think we would revisit this intersection so quickly, but here we are again."
DeWine remembers being there two years ago. Democrats, with Redfern new at the helm, had swept all but one statewide office and two years later won control of the Ohio House and rolled through 2008 with President Barack Obama's historic win. DeWine became chairman four days after Obama's inauguration.
"Some were asking why I would want to be chairman of a party that was a dinosaur - that not only was dying, but was dead. What a difference two years can make."
DeWine knows that success these days can be as short-lived as voters' patience for results: "If we don't solve problems, if we do not put this state and country on a better path, we as a party could be swept out as quickly as we were swept in."
Even so, DeWine's GOP diminished the odds of that happening by winning the races for governor, auditor and secretary of state, giving the party control of the process for drawing new legislative and congressional districts for a third consecutive decade. Next year, the GOP likely will gerrymander Ohio House and Senate and congressional districts to favor its candidates in a wide majority of those districts for the next 10 years.
The League of Women Voters of Ohio and other good-government advocates failed again to get both parties to reform the redistricting process. It stands to reason that more competitive districts would produce more representatives bound to legislate from the middle rather than from the fringes. But leaders of the two political parties went all in on the election of 2010. Redfern and Co. lost again.
"I'm not paid by the League of Women Voters or Common Cause or any group that wants a process of fair maps, however you define that," DeWine said. "I'm in the business of drawing the most Republican map you can find."
And so, another 10-year-long slog has begun for Ohio Democrats.