DeWine says 2012 is final year as Ohio Republican Party chair; Will anti-gun Betty Montgomery take his place?

by Chad D. Baus

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Kevin DeWine, who was elected unanimously as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party in 2009 after receiving the endorsement of former chairman Bob Bennett, and who was re-elected unanimously in 2011, has announced he will not run for re-election at the end of his current two-year term, which ends in December.

Despite having achieved a large degree of success in electing Republicans, including John Kasich, in the 2010 mid-term elections, DeWine has failed to impress Governor Kasich, who has been openly working to oust the chairman and replace him with his own hand-picked leader.

From the article:

DeWine on Sunday emailed the 66 members of the party's governing body, the state central committee, informing them of his decision not to run in 2013.

"Over the past year, our state central committee has become the center of a highly charged contest for the future of the Ohio Republican Party," DeWine wrote in the email, obtained by The Plain Dealer. "I believe that in order to ensure victory for 2012 this family fight must end now. To accomplish that goal, I intend to lead by example.

"Those who want to see new leadership in this party will have their chance, as I will not run for another term as your chairman in January of 2013."

According to the article, Bennett failed to support his own endorsee in this fight, telling The Plain Dealer he supports Kasich as head of the party, who "in effect holds a veto over the chair." However, Bennett did say he doubts Kasich will get his wish to have DeWine gone before December.

"I think Kevin has a lot of support on the committee and I don't think the votes would be there to remove him, nor do I think there's a reason to," he is quoted as saying.

The leadership of the party is an important issue for Ohio gun owners, whose efforts to improve the state's gun laws have, at many times in the past, been hampered by certain "moderate" Republicans who, despite their opposition to what was supposedly a key or "plank" issue for the GOP, continued to enjoy the support of the state party.

As such, no matter where gun owners fall on the current fight between DeWine and Kasich, one thing they will all agree on is that the next chairman should not be someone with an anti-gun record.

But if the party rumor mill is to be believed, that is exactly what may be in store for the party.

Gun owners will recognize the name Betty Montgomery.

Occupying the office of attorney general from 1995-2002, Montgomery fought to continue the state's ban on concealed carry, even as two courts and four judges found the law to be unconstitutional.

In 2004, when Ohio House Bill 12 finally brought concealed carry to Ohio, Montgomery said, "I would not sign this bill."

When questioned in 2005 about her previous opposition, she referred to the "dastardly" crimes committed against law enforcement by people with guns and said, "I don't want to live in a country where everyone is packing heat." Montgomery even suggested allowing law-abiding Ohioans their constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense would "make things more dangerous on our streets ... for our police." Montgomery also vehemently opposed efforts to prevent the media from obtaining lists of concealed handgun license-holders and publishing their names in the newspaper.

That same year, the anti-concealed carry Montgomery decided to make a run for the governor's office. After a brief attempt at reinventing herself as a pro-Second Amendment candidate, her gubernatorial campaign flamed out after she told Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine that she would "never be the candidate of the NRA, and I'm fine with that. I don't want their endorsement."

Dropping her bid for governor, then-State Auditor Montgomery campaigned instead for another term as attorney general, but was defeated by a pro-gun Democrat in 2006.

Unfortunately for gun owners, it is now clear that this was not the end of Montgomery's political career. Montgomery was among the persons chosen by Kasich to run for state central committee, with the goal of gaining enough seats to oust DeWine. On March 6, Montgomery was elected to the committee, representing state Senate District 31. While it is not clear if Kasich has enough votes to oust DeWine before his term ends, The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that talk among political insiders is that Montgomery is Kasich's choice to take over as chair, whether he is ousted by the committee when they meet next month, as Kasich prefers, or after his term ends.

In responding to these rumors, Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine said, "One would hope that both parties have learned that promoting anti-gun people to leadership is not a winning formula nationally, and certainly not in Ohio. In a state that is decidedly pro-gun, and after the gun banners' predictions of the last 10 years have been wrong again and again, it is puzzling how any party, especially the Republicans, would risk alienating their base with someone as disliked as Betty Montgomery."

It isn't too soon to start letting your state central committeeman and committeewoman know how you would feel about the potential of anti-gun Betty Montgomery running the Ohio GOP.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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