Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) will seek a second term later this year, and though there hasn’t been a lot of polling on the race, the incumbent arguably starts the race as a modest favorite to win re-election. His task, however, is poised to get a little more difficult than it otherwise would be.
An Ohio tea party leader is expected to challenge Gov. John Kasich in the Republican gubernatorial primary on May 6, making good on the threat from some conservatives in the state to oppose Kasich because of his push for Medicaid expansion and some other policies they reject.
Ted Stevenot, 48, of Cincinnati, has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday in Columbus in which he will declare his candidacy and name his running mate for lieutenant governor – Brenda Mack of Canfield.
Stevenot’s background in political and public service is limited, though he’s the former head of a Tea Party group called the Ohio Liberty Coalition. His running mate is the former president of the Ohio Black Republicans Association.
It’s not yet clear if the Stevenot/Mack ticket has collected the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot, but it’s a pretty low threshold: 1,000 signatures in a state of 11 million people. As Jane Timm added, it makes it quite likely that Kasich will be the first Ohio governor of either party to face a primary challenger in 36 years.
The primary race will clearly be an uphill climb for the outsider – Kasich will enjoy a massive financial advantage and have the backing of the party establishment – but the interesting thing is what’s driving the intra-party fight in the first place.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer noted, “Kasich’s backing of Medicaid expansion, a component of the federal health care law, appears to be driving opposition on the right.”
We’ll no doubt hear more about conservatives’ concerns next week when Stevenot’s campaign officially gets underway, but on its face, there’s something remarkable about a Republican governor facing a primary opponent largely due to Medicaid expansion. In this case, Kasich brought in nearly $2.5 billion in federal funds to the state, boosted state hospitals, and brought coverage to as many as 330,000 low-income Ohioans, who would otherwise be forced to go without.
In contemporary GOP politics, this is the sort of move that creates primary fights. Why? Because Medicaid expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act.
No one should hate a moderate health care law quite this much.
* Postscript: Keep in mind, back in June, Kasich reminded Ohio Republicans that Reagan repeatedly expanded Medicaid. That didn’t prove persuasive to the party’s far-right base, but it does help serve as a reminder that Reagan probably would face a primary challenger, too, if he were able to get elected in the first place.