SHARONVILLE — With Mary Taylor sitting but a few feet away, Mike DeWine looked — and talked — right past her.
The first business at hand — beating Taylor for the Republican nomination for governor in the May 8 primary — didn’t warrant a mention as DeWine addressed about 500 suburban Cincinnati party faithful munching on pancakes and sausage on Saturday morning.
“We face a tough race in the fall,” said DeWine, Ohio attorney’s general and the party-endorsed, odds-on favorite for governor over Taylor, the state’s lieutenant governor.
“We’re expect our opponent is going to have a lot of money,” said DeWine, mentioning that the Democrat he dumped as attorney general in 2010 — Richard Cordray — quickly raised $2 million after his late entry into his party’s race for governor. “That’s what we’re up against this fall.”
The Northeastern Hamilton County Republican Club breakfast attracted nearly all of the GOP’s statewide candidates, including the haves — the campaign-cash rich DeWine and U.S. Senate candidate Jim Renacci — and the have-nots: Taylor and Renacci challenger Mike Gibbons.
DeWine and Renacci, a congressman from Wadsworth, enjoy the overwhelming endorsements of the Ohio Republican Party insiders, with Renacci also pocketing the blessing of President Donald Trump. But, Taylor and Gibbons fight on undeterred, positioning themselves as establishment-fighting outsiders.
While she did not trot out her “D.C. DeWine” moniker for her opponent on Saturday, Taylor said she would help build Trump’s wall and shut down sanctuary cities while assailing his record as a former U.S. senator as lacking true conservative credentials.
“I take on the entrenched political class and challenge the establishment every day,” Taylor said. “Ohio deserves better. I am a fearless, unapologetic conservative champion … First, I have to defeat the Ohio political establishment.”
“It’s a time of choosing,” she said. “On May 9, we will unite against the dire threat of Richard Cordray or Dennis Kucinich,” Taylor said in a reference to another Democratic gubernatorial contender, a former congressman and Cleveland mayor.
DeWine never spoke of the primary to come, instead stressing his top campaign issues of job creation, fighting Ohio’s deadly opioid addiction epidemic and bettering Ohio’s schools.
Gibbons, a Cleveland-area investment banker, took some shots at the presidential anointing of Renacci, saying he raised a lot of money for Trump and was a finalist to become a deputy commerce secretary when he decided to run. “If you want to drain the swamp, you don’t let the swamp pick your candidates. I am an outsider.”
Gibbons stressed his belief the federal government is spending too much money and said he would protect Second Amendment gun rights while blocking any “special path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants.
Renacci stressed his blue-collar, union-household background and said he would bring the same must-win, conservative mentality to the Senate that allowed him to build dozens of successful businesses. He is among the richest members of Congress. Gibbons is wealthy, as well.
Gibbons and Renacci each claimed they are the only candidate who can defeat two-term Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who ousted DeWine from the Senate in 2006.
“They really want to make sure we can get rid of Sherrod Brown,” Renacci said of Trump and D.C. Republicans, adding he looks forward to Brown becoming the third Democratic incumbent he defeats for Congress.
In a statement, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper criticized DeWine and other Republicans for continuing “their divisive race to adopt the most extreme right-wing positions,” saying Democrats are offering “a new vision of Ohio’s future.”