Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor told Clermont County Republicans last week that she hasn’t spoken to Gov. John Kasich in a year, an assertion her spokesman Michael Duchesne confirmed to this newspaper on Wednesday.
But Kasich, a fellow Republican who picked Taylor as his running mate in 2010 and 2014 and has endorsed her in her bid for governor, disputes the account.
“I’ve had some very very sensitive conversations about some very personal things that have happened in her family and I’m always there if there is something I can do to help people,” Kasich said during a meeting with reporters on Thursday.
That Taylor is attempting to distance herself from Kasich reveals the split in the party over the governor, who won re-election overwhelmingly in 2014 but has angered some Republicans over his opposition to President Donald Trump.
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Taylor is running against Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his running mate, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in the Republican primary.
“The Lt. Governor told the folks in Clermont County, who voted to endorse her over Mike DeWine by a 2-1 margin, that she hadn’t spoken to the Governor in over a year,” Duchesne said in an email on Thursday. “And that he wasn’t active in her campaign and his political team was actively working for Mike DeWine. I have no doubt that she was in budget meetings with the Governor. That’s what governing is.
Duchesne said the endorsement Taylor “cares about most is that of the people of Ohio.”
Taylor also told Clermont County Republicans she had not seen the governor in a year and she told them, falsely, that he had not endorsed her in her race for governor, according to a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday.
She was speaking to the Clermont County Republican Party, which then voted to endorse her over DeWine/Husted on Jan. 17.
The Cincinnati Enquirer article cited public records showing that Taylor has been in meetings with Kasich over the past year, and quotes a Kasich spokesman saying that the governor had indeed talked with his lieutenant governor within the past year.
Kasich said Taylor has been a “great teammate” even when she sometimes disagreed with his decisions and he pledged to continue to support her.
“Mary has been a great, loyal partner,” Kasich said. “I know that decisions have been made that she wasn’t always comfortable with. She’d express herself and then she’d go out and support the team.”
He said that Taylor is in a statewide campaign and, “If you’ve ever been in a statewide campaign its pretty crazy. You’re busy all the time and she has been terrific and I will continue to support her and she will make an excellent governor.”
Taylor is actively courting supporters of President Donald Trump in her quest for the Republican nomination.
Asked Thursday if he thought his endorsement would hurt or help Taylor, Kasich said, “I don’t think things have changed that much since I won 86 out of 88 counties (in the 2014 governor’s race.)”
“I have given her some suggestions as to how to be an effective candidate. She has to do her thing and I respect that.”
Ryan Stubenrauch, spokesman for the DeWine/Husted campaign, said Taylor is “obviously trying to distance herself” from Kasich. And he said her campaign’s account of what was said in the Clermont County Republican Party meeting has changed in the days since the meeting last week.
“It’s been a fun couple of days to watch the evolution of what we heard in Clermont County,” Stubenrauch said. “The story has evolved from Mary Taylor world.”
DeWine/Husted Campaign Manager Dave Luketic previously worked on Kasich’s campaigns for governor and president, but no one from Kasich’s current political team is working for the DeWine/Husted campaign, Stubenrauch said.
“I found the whole thing puzzling,” Stubenrauch said.
Democrats have a larger field of candidates in their primary.
They are Richard Cordray, former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a former Ohio treasurer and attorney general; Dennis Kucinich, former U.S. congressman and former Cleveland mayor; former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill.
Other stories by Lynn Hulsey