OLC members spent a significant amount of time in 2013 meeting with their Republican state reps and state senators about Medicaid expansion – discussing the many pitfalls in the policy and urging their representatives to oppose it. Most OLC members came away from these meetings frustrated with their representatives’ unwillingness to take a public position on the issue. We heard a lot of evasive responses – talk of a hybrid public/private plan, talk of Medicaid reform, and the tried and true, something has to be done, what are your solutions, and I am reviewing all the information.
For a political party whose primary campaign issue was opposition to Obamacare, Ohio Republican lawmakers’ inability to stand against a major component of the ACA was baffling. Certainly, we understood that Governor Kasich’s push for expansion was a factor in our representatives’ lack of resolve, but we thought the Governor was joking when he said,
“Kick them in the shins, though, if they’re not going to vote for this thing (Medicaid expansion) as they go out the door, but have a smile on your face.”
Answers to most questions become clear with the passage of time and now we know why Republican lawmakers left their spine at the door when meeting with their constituents about Medicaid expansion.
The Cincinnati Enquirer and Media Trackers report that three members of the Republican House caucus will not receive the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party for their re-election campaigns. These individuals, Representatives Ron Maag, John Becker, and Ron Hood, all opposed Medicaid expansion and joined the lawsuit against the Controlling Board’s unconstitutional approval of it.
The retaliation by the ORP comes as a shock to many political observers, especially those in the party base who were grateful for Representatives Maag, Becker, and Hoods‘ steadfast commitment to fiscal responsibility and health care freedom. The Enquirer notes that Maag, Becker, and Hood are “among the more conservative members in the Ohio House,” but that “they have been willing to oppose the party leadership politically.
An anonymous source told the Enquirer,
“Those state representatives have not supported the unity of the Republican Party…So the caucus leadership, under Speaker Bill Batchelder, decided not to recommend their endorsement to the state party – even though the caucus had publicly said earlier it would support all incumbents.”
Seeing Speaker Batchelder’s name involved in all of this is a little rich. In late October, Batchelder joined with the majority of his caucus and signed a protest letter against Governor Kasich’s use of the Controlling Board to expand Medicaid. Just days later, the Speaker removed two members of the Controlling Board in favor of two others giving Governor Kasich the majority he needed to get expansion passed.
In addition to their stance on Medicaid expansion, Media Trackers reports that Becker and Hood voted against Governor Kasich’s infrastructure bond increase which will appear on the May ballot. And along with Rep. Matt Lynch, Becker and Hood voted against the biennial budget.
Rep. Matt Lynch, who also joined the lawsuit against the Controlling Board’s expansion of Medicaid, has received some pay back of his own. Media Trackers indicates that an ORP field director’s wife, Sarah Kayser, is running for State Rep in his district. As such, instead of seeking re-election, Lynch has decided to run for U.S. Congress against incumbent Congressman Dave Joyce (R).
Six state reps filed suit against the Controlling Board’s decision in all. It should be noted that two of them, Representatives Andy Thompson and Ron Young, did receive ORP endorsements.
Given Maag, Becker, Hood, and Lynch’s experience, it’s reasonable to conclude that opposing a major piece of the Democrat agenda while standing with the 65% of Republican primary voters who also oppose it, can get you blackballed in the ORP.
What effect the loss of the party’s endorsement will have on these gentlemen’s re-election chances has yet to be seen. We do know they will have to rely on their own ability to fundraise and get their message out.
Certainly, it must have felt like a “kick in the shins,” when they learned they had not been endorsed by their party. Rep. Becker told Media Trackers,
“What’s really confusing about what’s going on here is, this is unprecedented. The caucus has never blackballed people before, unless they’re under indictment or have multiple DUIs or something of that nature.”
It’s a “kick in the shins” as well to all Ohioans with a Republican representative as these lawmakers will now be even more influenced by party strong-arming to the possible detriment of their districts. And for Ohio liberty groups, the targeting of Maag, Becker, Hood, and Lynch must remind them of the intimidation they experienced first-hand from the Obama administration’s IRS.
The liberty movement simply asks for a fair and honest debate and representatives willing to vote their consciences, not their career tracks. But with a governor heading the ORP who is ambitious in his own right, it appears that statehouse Republicans will face continued pressure to forget their consciences and cast their vote in Governor Kasich’s favor.
As for Governor Kasich, he has learned a lot from the man in the White House – government run health care, acting unilaterally to bypass the state legislature, and now retaliation against those who stand up for limited government. Troublesome lessons for a man who envisions himself a presidential candidate.