The Ohio GOP is Doubling Their Chance for Defeat

By: Gerard Valentino

Ohio has a large union community and also has one of the biggest gun owner populations in the United States. By passing Senate Bill 5, which stripped public unions of some collective bargaining rights and refusing to pass Senate Bill 17, a mundane gun reform bill, the Ohio Republican Party has destroyed their chance of garnering support from either group in the next election season.

A political party can win Ohio without one of the two groups, but winning without either is impossible. That fact makes the Ohio Republican Party’s unwillingness to pass a gun bill that is already law in every state that borders Ohio, a staggering miscalculation.

Many people don’t realize that the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police and other law enforcement unions routinely endorse Republican candidates for governor and for other statewide offices. Prior to Ted Strickland’s run for governor in 2006, the OFOP had endorsed the Republican gubernatorial candidate in three straight elections. Now that Governor John Kasich was instrumental in the passage of SB5, the unions are obligated to endorse anyone but him when he runs for reelection.

It is hard to argue with the value of SB5 to Ohio’s economic future, but the fact remains it destroyed any chance Republicans have of garnering a single union endorsement in the next election cycle. With Ohio’s large union population already organizing for the 2012 elections, the Ohio Republican Party needs every vote to stave off the looming electoral threat.

Instead, the Ohio Republicans will be fighting with gun owners over passage of SB17 which would simply bring Ohio gun laws in line with 41 other states.

In the past, Ohio Republican candidates for statewide office had a reputation for running as pro-gun and forgetting their promises once elected. Republican Bob Taft was notorious for lying to get gun voters to support him and then refusing to honor his promises. In response, gun owners started to the use the term “Tafted” for describing candidates that pandered to gun owners and then, once elected, refused to support gun rights.

The fact that SB17 is currently stalled in the Ohio House leaves gun owners to wonder if they were “Tafted” by a sizable percentage of the Republican House caucus.

If Governor Kasich and pro-gun Republicans want to stop the negative chatter they need to demand the Ohio House of Representatives pass SB17. Representative Ron Maag (R-35) and Danny Bupb (R-88) are doing everything within their power to see that it happens, but with the bill currently stalled without explanation, the anger among gun owners continues to build.

Once again, the Republicans have underestimated the will of Ohio’s pro-gun community, a mistake that has burned them in the past. That means we are likely to see a fractured Republican Party as we head into the 2012 presidential election season, when it is imperative the party unites behind the eventual presidential nominee.

Only one option exists to achieve the goal of a unified Republican base– quick passage of SB17 so gun owners can spend time campaigning for pro-gun Republican candidates, instead of battling to get the bill through the Ohio House.

Each day the bill languishes, Ohio’s pro-gun community is reminded of the wounds inflicted in the past by Republicans Bob Taft, Betty Montgomery, Mike DeWine, George Voinovich, Doug White, and others. Reopening those wounds led to electoral defeat during the 2006 gubernatorial election when pro-gun Democrat Ted Strickland was victorious, and in 2008 when the gun community felt betrayed by the nomination of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for president.

McCain’s anti-gun pedigree included support for bills that would ban gun shows, a surefire way to anger gun voters. So, when the 2008 election season kicked off, gun owners stayed home and McCain lost Ohio, and the presidency.

Now, the stage is set for another revolt by gun voters in Ohio. This time, the Republican’s need for gun votes is even more acute since Ohio’s labor unions were shocked into action by to passage of SB5.

What makes the situation even more infuriating is that SB17 simply brings Ohio’s gun laws in line with 42 other states so passage of the bill has no political downside.

If the bill remains bottlenecked, however, the downside is an election cycle without gun owners playing an active role, and based on recent history, we know how that will turn out.

(Gerard Valentino is the author of The Valentino Chronicles – Observations of a Middle Class Conservative, available at, is a co-founder of Buckeye Firearms Association and a former military intelligence analyst.)

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