Is the OhioGOP (finally) getting the message from gun owners?

By Chad D. Baus

On August 17, 2005, as a second conservative Republican announced his intention to contest the anti-gun Senator Mike DeWine in the GOP primary, a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer quoted OhioGOP spokesperson Jason Mauk as saying his party's commitment to the liberal DeWine remained solid:

Jason Mauk, political director at the Ohio Republican Party, said the party is confident that DeWine will win re-election next year.

"Senator DeWine has our full support and endorsement," Mauk said.

In the months that followed, gun owners sounded repeated warnings, through this website and elsewhere, that they would not be willing to vote for DeWine, no matter who the opponent, because of his repeated attacks on their Second Amendment rights. Party officials like Mauk, and his boss Bob Bennett, turned a deaf ear.

Even when several of the state's county Republican central committees refused to endorse the incumbent Senator last spring, they ignored the complaints.

Fast forward December 2006, just weeks after voters fired DeWine and refused to elect other anti-gun Republicans to statewide office, and Mauk is singing a decidedly different tune.

A December 10 Toledo Blade article entitled "Ohio GOP tries to pick up the pieces - Party dissects November election disaster" reveals that Jason Mauk is now very aware of DeWine's achilles heel.

The grappling with a drop in intensity, compared to the 2004 presidential race, that it saw this year in volunteer recruitment, voter registration, and outreach to special-interest "coalitions."

For example: Mr. Mauk said sportsmen happily made phone calls supporting President Bush two years ago. This year, some phone-bank workers refused to dial on behalf of Mr. DeWine, who was endorsed by a leading gun-control advocate.

The Blade doesn't say, but I have to believe that the OhioGOP's experience attempting to find support among gun owners for Betty Montgomery was met with equal apathy.

This last election proves that Ohio gun owners are tired of being taken for granted by the Republican party, and tired of being asked to support anti-gun Republican candidates. And there is some indication that at least one man at the OhioGOP is getting the message:

"I'm not suggesting that what happened this year is a long-term trend," said Jason Mauk, the state GOP political director. "But I do believe that it serves as a wake-up call."

Speaking as someone who has had several conversations with Mr. Mauk, as far back as 2003, in which I warned about the potential for what happened in November, I can tell you I'm not impressed by how long it took for the message to penetrate, or how much damage they were willing to allow to be inflicted to the state Republican party before they "woke up". But I suppose late is always better than never.

There seems always to be a bit of bad news balance to good news stories, and here it comes:

Bob Bennett, the man who turned a blind eye to Bob Taft's repeated shafting of gun owners; the man who acted too late to try and clear the primary field for Ken Blackwell (the obvious Republican front-runner); and the man who is responsible for supporting so many anti-gun Republican candidates in the past decade or more (George Voinovich, Bob Taft, Betty Montgomery, Mike DeWine, etc. etc.), has decided the November disaster for his party wasn't enough.

In a Cleveland Plain Dealer story in which he is quoted as saying "the biggest disappointment I had [in the November 2006 elections] was the loss by [anti-gun candidate] Betty Montgomery", Bennett announces that he will seek re-election in January to another two-year term.

If Jason Mauk truly has gotten the message from gun owners, we hope he'll share it with his boss. In fact, the men could start the turnaround for their party today, by calling each and every Republican state Senator and requesting that they vote to overturn Bob Taft's veto of HB347 on Tuesday.

If Republicans do not act now to put the anti-gun Taft legacy behind them, they'll be handing pro-gun Democrats like Governor-elect Ted Strickland and Attorney General-elect Marc Dann a golden opportunity to convince Ohio gun owners to look to the blue side of the ticket again in 2008.

Chad D. Baus is the Northwest Ohio Chair of Buckeye Firearms Association, and a Fulton Co. Republican Central Committeeman.

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