For years, it seemed Mary Taylor and her boss John Kasich were a tight team. But in the last few months, as Taylor has been running an increasingly aggressive campaign to succeed Kasich as governor, she seems to be pushing away from him.
It was January 2010 and only one Republican was holding a statewide executive office – Auditor Mary Taylor. That’s when John Kasich announced that Taylor would be joining his campaign for governor as his running mate.
“You know, you got LeBron James, you don’t leave him on the bench. I mean, the fact of the matter is, this ticket has got people all over the state very excited. We had an exciting thing going, and now with Mary, it’s like, wow, you know,” Kasich said.
Over their two terms as governor and lieutenant governor, Kasich and Taylor have appeared together many times. And she campaigned for him during his run for president. In May 2016, when Kasich dropped out of the race, Taylor said she was sad to see him make that decision.
“I know, I’ve seen him in town hall meetings in particular in New Hampshire, and I do know how personal these things are for him,” Taylor said at the time. “And I do also, I saw how many people he touched, how many people’s lives he touched.”
And then last year, when Taylor was showing interest in the race to replace Kasich – he told a group of newspaper executives that he’d support her candidacy.
“I’m going to be for Mary Taylor if she runs – I’ve already said that. She’s the lieutenant lovernor and she has been a good partner, and she walked away from her own job and so that’s what I will do,” Kasich said then.
Failure to communicate
But what appeared to be a good relationship seems to have eroded, at least publicly, under the pressures of a contested primary in a state where Republican voters’ regard for Kasich has fallen off.
In early 2017, Taylor backed Trump supporter Jane Timken to head the Ohio Republican Party, ousting Matt Borges, who Kasich had helped put in that job five years earlier. Taylor split with Kasich on Common Core standards in K-12 education, which he supports.
At a forum for the Republican candidates for governor in October, she was asked whether she considers Kasich a conservative.
“I can tell you that some of the decisions made have not reflected what I consider to be good conservative values [such as] Medicaid expansion,” Taylor told the audience.
After Kasich’s impassioned and unusual State of the State speech earlier this month, during which he reflected on the meaning of life and talked about compassion and values in his work as governor – Taylor responded with a one-word tweet: “Huh.” And she spoke at a rally for gun owners at the Statehouse, saying she was opposed to Kasich’s new gun control regulations.
But Taylor says she’s not running away from her former running mate – she’s just running her own campaign.
“I’m doing what you would normally expect, I guess, a lieutenant governor to do – which is, define who Mary Taylor is. I am defining who Mary Taylor is, and I am drawing distinctions where those exist,” Taylor said.
However, it’s been reported that at a county party endorsement event, she even claimed that Kasich had endorsed her opponent, Attorney General Mike DeWine, and that she hadn’t spoken to Kasich in more than a year – which he denies.
The Trump factor
Veteran Statehouse reporter Tom Suddes is a journalism professor at Ohio University and a columnist for Cleveland.com. Taylor has embraced President Trump and was at a Trump rally last month, and Suddes notes Kasich has kept up the criticism of Trump that he started when he was running against him.
“Perhaps Ms. Taylor just wants to make sure that voters understand that she sees things a little bit differently, and of course that can be an advantage in the GOP primary. I’m still kind of surprised by it, though, frankly. I don’t know quite any example like this in the past that comes to mind,” said Suddes.
And Suddes says that includes what he can recall reporting on and reading about before 1978, when the governor and lieutenant governor were elected separately, and sometimes were from different parties.
When asked if she wants Kasich to campaign for or with her, Taylor would only say that she wants the support of every single Ohioan who would vote for her and Nathan Estruth as what she calls the “conservative non-establishment ticket.”