Now that Ohio Gov. John Kasich has announced he will officially launch his presidential campaign in a few weeks, there may be new attention on another Republican statewide officeholder.
Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor seems to be out in front a lot these days – at the unveiling of the Thomas Edison statue in the Statehouse May 20, the grand opening of a new technology center for the Wendy’s fast food restaurant in Columbus a week later, and the groundbreaking for a highway project in southeastern Ohio in late June.
But when Gov. John Kasich officially hits the presidential campaign trail, his lieutenant governor will likely be a lot more visible.
David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati, and says it will be a great chance for Taylor.
“She has to sit back while Mike DeWine defines who he is, while Jon Husted defines who he is, so she has really been left with a secondary role,” said Niven. “And it’s hard to imagine right now her being able to elevate herself past them without an opportunity, without a chance to shine.”
Political science professor David Cohen of the Ray C. Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron, has had a chance to observe Taylor first-hand, since he lives in Green, which Taylor represented when she was in the Ohio House a decade ago.
Cohen says being out in front would give her a leg up as she and other Republican candidates prepare for the statewide elections in 2018.
“It’s always easier, easier to raise money, easier in terms of gaining name recognition as an incumbent than it is as a challenger,” said Cohen. “And I think one of her big challenges as lieutenant governor is she doesn’t have a whole lot of name recognition. And that’s a problem for just about every lieutenant governor in the country.”
Niven says taking on a bigger public role would be an opportunity for Taylor to escape the negative reports that have come out about her use of a state plane – she says the trips were official business and she paid the state back – and the resignations of two top staffers after questions were raised about the hours they claimed they had worked.
And Niven says it would be a chance for Taylor to define herself beyond the limited public profile she’s had so far – which has primarily focused on her opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which she calls Obamacare.
“Beyond that, she really isn’t a voice in the administration’s budget plan; she’s not a voice in the administration’s overall agenda,” Niven said. “This would give her an opportunity to assert relevance and credibility and leadership.”
But Cohen doesn’t think the reported situations involving the plane trips and the staffers are that unusual for an elected official; and that they won’t be a roadblock to Taylor, who he notes pundits don’t often mention as a candidate for higher office.
“I think they’re really overlooking someone who has a pretty impressive resume and experience to run for governor or senator or some other higher office,” said Cohen. “I think that’s a mistake and I think she really is a force to be reckoned with.”
Niven notes that Taylor wouldn’t have more authority with Kasich out of state, unlike in New Jersey, where the lieutenant governor gets full acting gubernatorial power, including veto power.
For her part, Taylor said that she didn’t want to talk about her responsibilities or the possibilities for her until after Kasich’s campaign launch, which is set for July 21.