One segment of last week’s Republican National Convention slighted Republican National Committee member Jo Ann Davidson, a member of Gov. John R. Kasich’s inner circle and the first woman to be elected speaker of Ohio’s House.
At issue: A video tribute to George V. Voinovich, former Cleveland mayor, Ohio governor and U.S. senator, who died June 12, and Robert T. Bennett, Ohio’s longest-serving GOP state chair, who died in 2014. To the surprise of Ohio delegates, the person on the convention’s rostrum introducing the tribute was former House Speaker Larry Householder, a Perry County Republican. Householder, who wasn’t a delegate, was Davidson’s successor as speaker, though the successor she wanted was then-Rep. Bill Harris, an Ashland Republican.
Davidson, a suburban Columbus Republican, has been a Republican sparkplug since as far back as Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. She was House speaker throughout Voinovich’s second term (1995-98) and for two years of Bob Taft’s administration.
Householder was elected to the House in 1996, the middle of Voinovich’s second term. Householder was speaker from 2001 through 2004, during Taft’s governorship. Householder’s enemies claimed he wielded the House’s gavel like a sledgehammer. Householder was term-limited out of the House in 2004. He’s seeking a comeback this fall as GOP candidate in the 72nd House District (Perry and Coshocton counties, parts of Licking). The Democratic candidate is Etna Twp. Trustee John Carlisle.
State Auditor Dave Yost, a convention delegate, wrote in an op-ed for The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com that he “was floored by the choice” of Householder to introduce the video. Davidson, Yost wrote, by engineering “the GOP takeover of the House … gave Voinovich the legislative allies he needed to succeed. The honor of introducing the video was a no-brainer.” (Householder declined to respond.)
Given that Davidson and Ohio’s other delegates backed Kasich, not Donald Trump, for president, it wasn’t a surprise the delegation didn’t land front-and-center convention seats but was shunted to one side of the rostrum. Even so, it’s remotely possible – as in, “very, very remotely” –having Householder introduce the video was a staff mistake, not a calculated snub. (A convention spokeswoman didn’t answer queries.)
In fairness to Householder, Bob Bennett had family ties to Perry County. And in Ohio’s presidential primary, Trump carried almost all Ohio’s Appalachian counties, including Perry. Finally, Householder has links to the coal crowd, which likes Trump.
In June, Robert E. Murray, head of Murray Energy Corp., “the largest underground coal mining company in America,” held a Wheeling fund-raiser for Trump. Trump “supports the coal industry and the coal miners,” Murray told Steubenville’s WTOV-TV. “And that’s why I am supporting him.”
A Trump rally followed in Belmont County’s seat, St. Clairsville. Belmont was Ohio’s No. 1 county in coal production last year. And in Trump’s Thursday acceptance speech, he vowed to get miners (and steelworkers) back to work. However unlikely that is (it would, for example, require coal to be as cheap and clean as natural gas) that pledge had to be music to many ears in the hurting crescent of Ohio towns from Youngstown-Warren to East Liverpool and Steubenville, and on to Ironton and Portsmouth.
Those are parts of the state where Trump has to win big to have any chance of besting Hillary Clinton in Ohio. (And Trump has to win Ohio to become president.) So, arguably, giving an Appalachian Republican a convention cameo could make sense – assuming good will, and shrewd planning, by the convention staff, and Trump’s. On both counts, that’s likely a reach.
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