Politics Extra is a weekly column looking inside local politics (Scroll to the bottom to read “Micro-scoops & more”)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich last week might have sent a finger-wagging message down to Hamilton County Republicans:
You’re going to pay for supporting Donald Trump.
Local political watchers told Politics Extra they believe Kasich has exacted a little revenge on the Hamilton County GOP, which endorsed Trump and has had individuals continue to support him since he was elected president. The Republican governor, who has lost control of the state party to Trump, got his payback apparently by going against the Hamilton County party’s wishes with a Jan. 27 judicial appointment.
Kasich appointed Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Jacqueline Ginocchio to replace Judge Lisa Allen on the municipal court, despite the fact Ginocchio doesn’t live in that seat’s district. There’s no law or policy that says a judge has to live in the district, and Ginocchio was among five names sent to Kasich’s office by the Hamilton County GOP for two open municipal court seats, the governor’s office confirmed.
Separately, however, it’s believed a local GOP judicial committee specifically recommended to the governor that chief assistant prosecutor Gwen Bender and Delhi Township Trustee Will Oswall receive the appointments. Bender did get the other appointment. But Oswall was spurned in favor of Ginocchio even though he lives in the municipal court’s West Side district.
Asked whether Kasich was getting Trump-related payback on the Hamilton County GOP, the governor’s spokeswoman, Emmalee Kalmbach, said: “Five qualified candidates were referred for consideration and, after a careful review, the best, most qualified individuals were selected.”
Hamilton County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou declined comment.
To be clear, Ginocchio is well regarded in the local party. The Anderson Township resident will have to run for election this November. So if the Democrats can find someone well known to run in a district that spans Delhi Township and neighborhoods along the Ohio River west to the Indiana border, the GOP could be vulnerable to losing another seat in the courthouse.
It’s typical for the local party to recommend up to three people for each open seat and then a judicial committee will separately make a more specific recommendation to the governor. That can make it a rubber-stamp deal.
But not this time for Kasich, who battled Trump in the GOP presidential primary last year. Kasich has been known to play politics and cut people out for going against him – even though there’s been no evidence anyone in the Hamilton County GOP has crossed the governor in regard to Trump. The party endorsed Trump after he had become the Republican nominee.
Nonetheless, the timing of Ginocchio’s appointment is curious. It came a day after reports by Cleveland.com and Cleveland’s CBS affiliate WOIO-TV that the Kasich camp isn’t happy with Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor for doing an about-face last month and voting for Trump-backed Jane Timken for Ohio GOP chair.
As a member of the GOP’s state central committee, Taylor went against Kasich-backed Matt Borges in the vote. Timken won, meaning the Ohio party is no longer controlled by Kasich. That could be detrimental to his potential bid for the White House in 2020. Taylor is considering a run for governor next year, and she likely voted for Timken in an attempt to curry favor with Trump’s Ohio voters.
The committee votes were private, and Taylor’s vote only is known because she publicly announced it. Cincinnati-area committee members have kept their votes private, like most others.
WOIO-TV obtained a memo allegedly written by a Kasich strategist recommending the governor not support Taylor in next year’s GOP gubernatorial primary and instead back Mike DeWine. There has been no evidence Kasich had anything to do with the memo, which said “it’s time that we face it … she is no friend of John Kasich’s and he no longer owes her any loyalty.”
It continued: “John Kasich’s legacy is what is at stake here … we need to recognize that the enemy is at the gates.”
Three judicial seats remain open in Hamilton County. Will those appointments fully tell if Kasich has it in for the local party?
MICRO-SCOOPS & MORE
• Cincinnati’s Lindsay Reynolds will return to the White House as First Lady Melania Trump‘s chief of staff. She was associate director of the White House Visitors Office during George W. Bush‘s administration. Reynolds, known as a masterful fundraiser, was a leader in Cincinnati’s effort to land the 2016 Republican National Convention, which ended up going to Cleveland.
• In a surprise to no one, laborers’ union Local 265 this week endorsed Rob Richardson Jr. in the Cincinnati mayor’s race. The Democrat’s father is vice president of the 1,450-member Local 265. The union has been known to pour big money into campaigns, and insiders have been wondering what it will do to help Richardson ahead of the May 2 primary. His campaign reported having $8,000 in the bank at the end of 2016, but he didn’t announce his candidacy until Jan. 3.
• Cincinnatians Timken and Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper met for the first time on Wednesday, when they spoke to reporters during the Associated Press’ annual state Legislative preview session in Columbus. It’ll be interesting to see how Pepper and Timken get along after the former Hamilton County commissioner and Borges had a mutual respect and exchanged a lot of friendly barbs.
• Speaking of Cincinnatians in Columbus, Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer will be sworn in as Ohio Supreme Court justices on Thursday.
• The GOP continues to work on its slate for the 2017 City Council race. It has two candidates confirmed for the race so far – incumbent Amy Murray and newcomer Jeff Pastor. The Republicans are talking to former local NAACP President Edith Thrower about running. She is a former staffer in Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn‘s office.
Follow Enquirer local politics reporter Jason Williams on Twitter @jwilliamscincy. Send tips, questions and comments to email@example.com.