Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Donald Trump, John Kasich and a year of Ohio political surprises: 2016 takeaways

Say this about 2016: It was full of political surprises. None bigger, of course, than the election of reality television star Donald Trump as president.

I was wrong -- a lot -- about Trump's improbable candidacy. And like many others, I underestimated his chances against the far more politically seasoned Hillary Clinton.

As the year ends, here are five other stories I didn't see coming. Most trace their roots, even if in a roundabout way, to Trump. Each made 2016 an exciting year to cover politics in Ohio.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Keith Faber farewell tour

The Keith Faber farewell tour is the talk of Columbus.

The lame-duck Ohio Senate president has ruffled feathers in his final days. Even allies -- from Gov. John Kasich to fellow lawmakers and lobbyists -- have their grievances.

To be fair, Faber's controversial initiatives met with wide approval in his caucus. Most of the grumbling, as is common for Statehouse intrigue, is vented not in votes or showy floor speeches but, rather, in idle chitchat, text messages and not-for-attribution telephone calls.

But in many ways Faber is not a typical lame duck. Term-limited in the Senate, the Celina Republican will resurface next month in the Ohio House and immediately begin angling for higher office. Critics believe Faber's recent behavior is all about setting up his political future -- be it a run for state auditor or a federal appointment by President-elect Donald Trump.

A few things to keep in mind as one Faber reign ends and another possibly begins ...

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Can John Kasich and Donald Trump forge a truce? The future of the Ohio GOP rides on that question.

The case against Matt Borges boils down to a few perceptions.
  • Critics believe the Ohio Republican Party chairman undermined President-elect Donald Trump.
  • They believe that between Borges and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who unlike Borges refused to vote for Trump, someone has to go. (And they know it can't be Kasich, who has two years left on his term.)
  • In other words, they believe that keeping Borges around as Kasich's handpicked party boss would hurt the state's political clout in a Trump administration.
It's this last part that has allies of Borges and Kasich most concerned as a civil war breaks out among top party activists. They fear Borges is in danger of becoming collateral damage.

Jane Timken, an influential Republican from the Canton area who helped raise money for Trump's campaign, has launched a bid to dump Borges at a Jan. 6 meeting of the Ohio GOP's 66-member Central Committee. At the moment, Borges backers say he has more than the 34 votes needed to prevail. But Timken's challenge is enough of a disruption to have them discussing the best ways to shatter the perceptions that have him on a very hot seat.

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Jane Timken launches bid to unseat Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges

Jane Timken, an influential Canton Republican who helped raise money for President-elect Donald Trump, is angling to unseat Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges, whose lukewarm support of Trump's winning campaign upset some party activists this year.

Timken has been working the phones for several days, according to several Republican sources. She made her intentions clear in a letter sent Sunday to members of the GOP State Central Committee, a 66-member body that will determine Borges' fate next month.

"In fairness to Chairman Borges, this was a difficult year to be Chairman," Timken wrote. "In a Presidential election year, there are many competing obligations that must be balanced. I supported Governor [John] Kasich's two campaigns for Governor and his campaign for President. For many Ohioans, his loss was heartbreaking. Once the nomination was settled, Chairman Borges had the obligation to fully support the nominee and his campaign. He did not, and his actions have divided the state party leadership. This was his choice."

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Friday, December 2, 2016

'Hillbilly Elegy' author J.D. Vance talks about the Donald Trump wave and his new Ohio project

Almost by accident, J.D. Vance became the truest pundit of 2016, the year when just about everyone else had Donald Trump all wrong.

Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis" tells the story of his tough -- and often traumatic -- childhood in Middletown, Ohio, and Jackson, Kentucky.

The New York Times bestseller also supplies something that was missing from the media's coverage of Trump: An empathetic and thoughtful look at the white working-class communities that helped carry the Republican populist to the White House.

And now Vance, 32, is returning to Ohio to head a nonprofit organization that will seek solutions to the challenges facing the working-class. He has enlisted public affairs strategist Jai Chabria, the former top adviser to Gov. John Kasich, to help. The effort could be off the ground by the new year, though during an interview in Cleveland this week, Vance fussed over a tiny detail.

Read the full Q&A