COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the Ohio Republican Party’s Central Committee on Friday and put to rest any doubts about whether he plans to seek re-election in two years.
“Jon and I are running. We have not made any secret about that,” DeWine told fellow Republicans over Zoom, and referring to his running mate, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. “I’m again excited about things we’re going to do, and we’ll take time today to talk about that, the unfinished business that we have and things that we really need to do.”
DeWine also alluded to conversations with both Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken about the party’s future and President Trump regarding an issue he said he couldn’t yet disclose. The governor said he spoke with Trump two days ago.
“I called him to call me, and he called me right back,” DeWine said.
Republicans hardly acknowledged Trump’s election loss and his quixotic battles to overturn the results.
“Who knows how this will turn out, but I will continue to support the President for all the things he’s done,” said Timken, who announced plans for her own re-election as party chairman and signaled her desire to keeping working with DeWine.
The governor’s remarks come as rumblings of a primary challenge from DeWine’s right grow louder. Spurred by the governor’s early coronavirus lockdown and his continuing measures to slow the spread, far-right Republicans including former U.S. Senate candidate Jim Renacci and U.S. House firebrand Jim Jordan of Urbana are rumored to be considering bids for his job.
DeWine’s remarks, and the response from Timken, not-so-subtly conveyed that he’s still in good standing with party leadership despite calls for his impeachment from a fringe group of Ohio House lawmakers over coronavirus restrictions and a suggestion from Trump in a tweet that he should face a primary after calling Joe Biden the president-elect.
At the time of Trump’s tweet, DeWine insisted he was on good terms with the President and that he planned to run again in 2022.
In front of party members who are still firmly in the President’s corner, the governor praised Trump in his remarks Friday and thanked him for his assistance early in the pandemic with fast-tracking FDA approval for a controversial mask decontamination system produced by Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit research firm based in Columbus.
“The President has done some amazing things in regard to Ohio, and I just want to say that the relationship that we’ve been able to have with the president - he’s gone out of his way to help us,” DeWine said.
Other Republicans also made their plans known: Timken said she’s running for another four-year term as party chairman, a role for which she’s unlikely to face opposition. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine, DeWine’s son, hinted at a run for chief justice in 2022.
Party members lamented their big shortfall of the 2020 election — the Supreme Court seat they lost to Democrats when Judge Jennifer Brunner managed to oust Justice Judith French. The outcome tipped the balance of power toward Democrats, who are now one seat shy of a majority.
Sen. Rob Portman, who’s also up for re-election in two years, didn’t attend the meeting. Timken said he was tied up with a fundraiser for Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who’s defending her seat in a competitive runoff next month.