CLEVELAND — Ohio's lieutenant governor enters the 2018 race for the state's top job on Friday with the promised backing of Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Whether the endorsement of a leading detractor of President Donald Trump helps or hurts Republican Mary Taylor in her bid to lead the battleground state is unclear.
Taylor is expected to officially announce her run later Friday at the City Club of Cleveland.
Taylor, 51, of Green, is the final high-profile Republican expected to join the race to succeed Kasich, who can't run again due to term limits. She faces Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, of Wadsworth, in a primary race that promises to divide the loyalties of Ohio's GOP base.
Kasich's backing could prove beneficial to Taylor amid the crowded field. He won Ohio's Republican presidential primary last year with more than 930,000 votes — more than Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and nearly as many as Trump and Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio combined.
Yet more recent polling has found that Trump's favorability slightly exceeds Kasich's among Ohio voters. Some were put off when the Republican governor clashed with Trump last year, refusing to endorse him, appear with him or attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he secured the nomination.
Kasich also has bucked his party in defending the Medicaid expansion made available under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. He has forged alliances nationally in an effort to preserve the program and craft revisions to the law that leaders of his party, including Trump, have vowed to repeal and replace.
Fellow Republicans in the Ohio House stopped short Thursday of overriding a Kasich veto aimed at protecting Medicaid expansion from an enrollment freeze beginning next year, but they successfully overrode 11 other of his line-item budget vetoes. If the Senate also does so, those would be the first budget veto overrides of a same-party governor in 40 years.
Taylor, a former state insurance director, auditor and state representative, opposes Medicaid expansion, on the grounds that it's not sustainable. It's a big policy difference with the governor who's said he'll endorse her and who she's served beside since 2011.
Her opposition comes even amid Taylor's recent public revelation that her two sons have struggled with opioid addiction, a national scourge that Kasich argues gets double the money through the expansion than it does through the state general fund.
Ohio Democrats seized on the fight to play up an issue that's dividing Republicans in Ohio and nationally. All four Democratic candidates for governor support the expansion.
Democratic Chairman David Pepper accused Taylor, Husted and DeWine of being "missing in action" when it came to whether they supported Kasich's veto of the Medicaid expansion enrollment freeze — a move the administration estimated would lead to 500,000 low-income Ohioans losing coverage within the first 18 months.
Renacci, who seeks to position himself as a businessman and political outsider like Trump, despite years in Congress, also jumped on the veto fight as an opportunity. He was the only candidate who publicly supported the freeze and opposed the veto.
He has sought to lump together Taylor, Husted and DeWine in voters' minds as he faces three high-profile sitting statewide officeholders next year. Husted and DeWine each have extensive political networks and more than $2.5 million in the bank.
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