State party endorsements can go far to influence election results. Those candidates who receive political backing, especially on the state level, can get more financial aid and greater notice on party-paid election mailings.
That helps get their name out in front of more voters.
So, it was interesting last week when two candidates for statewide offices, Mary Taylor and Mike Gibbons, strongly urged state Republican Party leaders not to endorse any GOP candidate prior to the May primary election.
Taylor, who is running for governor, went so far as to say if the party was going to endorse, she didn’t even know if she wanted the endorsement.
Meanwhile, Gibbons, a candidate for U.S. Senate, urged party leaders to stay neutral so as to unite the party, not divide it.
The result? On Friday, the state GOP announced it was endorsing Mike DeWine by a 59-2 vote over Taylor in the governor’s race, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci by a 46-3 vote over Gibbons for Senate. (Melissa Ackison collected two party votes in the Senate race.)
Afterward, both Taylor and Gibbons seemed OK with the underdog role as a way to distinguish themselves from the other candidates, especially those with long political resumes.
Taylor’s lone opponent in the May 8 primary is DeWine, who has a four-decade-long career in public service. Gibbons is one among five GOP candidates seeking the Senate nomination.
Both Taylor and Gibbons have run campaigns aimed at painting themselves as the “outsider” candidates in their respective races.
During a recent campaign stop at The Courier, Taylor even distanced herself from her boss, Gov. John Kasich, and called DeWine and his running mate, Jon Husted, members of the Republican Party’s “old school,” hardly an avenue to state party endorsement.
While Taylor herself has been in public service over 10 years, she aligns more with conservative voters who supported President Donald Trump, and those who opposed Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid in Ohio.
Taylor ended her comments to the Republican leadership last week by saying: “I’m not asking for your endorsement here today. With all of the good-old-boy bullying and backroom deals that have been struck to get us here… I’m not sure I even want it.”
Gibbons, too, is trying to buck political tradition while seeking office for the first time. His main challenger will certainly be Renacci, a veteran Washington lawmaker who is supported by Trump.
Gibbons says he is not a part of the “establishment,” and that he has the business skills needed to be a senator. His campaign is self-funded.
Gibbons has spent much of the past six months making appearances throughout the state and, interestingly, has earned the support of many local Republican officials in the process.
Yet, he too prefers to be considered a Republican “outsider” in the race.
“It’s disappointing that the insiders and establishment learned nothing from the last election,” Gibbons said last week. “Voters are sick and tired of insiders and career politicians trying to tell them what to do. It’s now clear that I am the true outsider in the race and my opponent is a moderate career-politician and insider.”
The two races may come down to how much stock voters put into political endorsements and to what degree they value experience for those who represent them in Columbus and Washington.
The “thanks, but no thanks” positions of Taylor and Gibbons last week seem consistent with their campaign strategies. Time will tell if their approaches will work.