A Tale of Two Counties

On Thursday, supporters of State Rep. Seth Morgan’s campaign for Ohio Auditor of State received some good news. The Brown County Republican Central Committee voted overwhelmingly to endorse Morgan for Auditor, with 75% voting for Morgan and only 13% voting for Delaware County prosecutor and former Attorney General candidate Dave Yost.

This should put to rest the establishment meme that Seth Morgan is unable to build the kind of organization he will need to beat David Pepper in November. It should also seriously call into question Yost’s viability. We were told that once he switched from Attorney General to Auditor it would all be gravy. But where is the grassroots enthusiasm that conventional wisdom told us would follow him from AG to Auditor? Obviously the momentum is behind Morgan, and Yost’s astonishing Brown County defeat should be making everyone question whether he can actually beat David Pepper.

Matt Hurley (Weapons of Mass Discussion) points out that the Brown County GOP declined to endorse former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine for Ohio Attorney General, even though DeWine’s name was the only one under consideration. I endorsed DeWine’s candidacy on Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for him to capture grassroots support — if it’s possible at all. This is another case of the conventional wisdom going right down the tubes.

But as this post’s headline makes clear, this is really a tale of two counties. We’ve heard about Brown County; now we will turn to Belmont County, where I grew up, and the shenanigans of Belmont County Republican Party chairman Kent Moore.

Moore’s attack on Seth Morgan and his inadequacy as chairman of the Belmont County GOP beneath the fold…

Weapons of Mass Discussion obtained the following e-mail, sent by Moore to his fellow county party chairs:

Dear fellow Republican County Chairman,

Having served as a County Chairman in two very different county’s (sic) in my lifetime, it never ceases to amaze me on how some folks ego’s (sic) can cloud their judgment.

Rarely in politics have I come across a candidate who is at once so openly disdainful of our party and our process, yet still brazen enough to ask for your support. Seth Morgan is currently trying to have it both ways with you, and I thought you should know the truth about this young man.

Recently, we needed to fill a void on the statewide ticket left when Mary Taylor decided to join John Kasich’s campaign and not seek re-election. You may recall that I immediately sent you an email requesting your consideration of Dave Yost for that spot. Dave had been all over Ohio during the previous year, and has built a statewide network that was truly impressive. Dave’s been in my county, and undoubtedly in many of yours. He is a former County Auditor, and is ready to fill Mary’s shoes right away. Polling has already shown that voters want an Auditor to be Auditor, which neither Seth Morgan, nor David Pepper is or has ever been.

I for one, not even knowing Seth Morgan’s interest at the time, did reach out to Dave and ask him if he, given his Auditor background, would consider running for State Auditor. Given the importance of this office and with his proven track record, he would give us the best opportunity to retain it. I along with others I am sure, suggested for him to consider it, knowing he would be the one who would have to make that decision. My decision to urge you to consider Dave’s candidacy was decried by Seth’s campaign as a “backroom deal” and he accused Dave of “bending to political pressure” when he made his decision to step up and bring his considerable skills to the Auditor’s race. But Seth saw fit to judge my decision as political expediency — even though he does not know me. His campaign’s barrage of negative attacks on the party and our traditions and processes did not end there.

About two weeks ago, the Ohio Republican State Central Committee met in Columbus to consider an endorsement in this race. Dave Yost won the endorsement easily, joining the other slate of endorsed candidates we had already chosen to win back Ohio for us in 2010. Seth Morgan’s name was not placed into nomination by anyone on the Committee.

Seth had spent several days leading up to the meeting, apparently asking his small group of vocal supporters to call and harass voting members. Many were told they would draw challengers for their seats when their re-elections came up. They were bombarded with scripted e-mails and angry phone calls from individuals accusing them of playing old politics and calling them “RINOs” among other things. Instead of vying for the nomination and respecting our party, Seth created a spectacle outside of party headquarters with people holding signs, yelling at committee members as they walked into the building, and chanting slogans — all for the media to see — based on fallacies about our party and our chairman, assumed to be true by Seth. One Committee member was physically threatened by a misguided individual who was sent to Columbus. The whole thing was shameful, orchestrated by a guy who thought attacking them would scare them into supporting his candidacy. They are volunteers, elected by the members of their party in their districts — and I for one, don’t respond well to threats or scare tactics when doing what I believe to be best for my party.

Now Seth has sent around the email below, asking you at the county level to consider supporting his candidacy. For one, he’s asking you to ignore the State Central Committee, who has (sic) already endorsed, in another attempt to divide allegiances and draw attention to himself. He’s also asking you to pay no attention to the pitiful tactics he’s already employed when challenging party leaders, many who are volunteer’s (sic) like you and me, following their conscience (sic) and doing their jobs on behalf of a well qualified candidate who has out-worked Seth.

Seth may in fact have a future in our party, but he has a lot to learn about working with and for people. I suggest, that as a newly elected official, he work harder at doing the job of which people in his district elected him to do. I’ll be happy to explain to Seth that the reason he will not receive the support of this chairman at this time is not because I believe in “waiting your turn” as Seth again assumes to be the case — but because he needs to learn to respect the GOP and it’s (sic) elected leaders, before he can expect to earn our support. I hope you’ll join me in delivering this message to him.

Kent Moore

Belmont County Chairman

Matt Hurley does a good job of ripping Moore’s e-mail apart, so I’m not going to focus as much on that. Moore’s propaganda campaign against Morgan’s candidacy is, quite simply, ludicrous. Dave Yost has outworked Seth Morgan? Maybe, sure, for an office that he is no longer running for because Kevin DeWine wanted to clear an uncontested path to the Attorney General’s nomination for his second cousin.

As for the supposed “scare tactics” of the Tea Party movement, I think I’ll try to coin a phrase. If you’re not down to party, don’t expect the rest of us to sit down quietly for some tea. The Tea Party is about a grassroots movement to take back Ohio for the people, not for the DeWines or other establishment figures like Kent Moore. Moore says that Seth Morgan “has a lot to learn about working with and for people.” But what Seth Morgan has already learned is that he’s not working for Kevin DeWine, he’s working for the people of Ohio. That’s a lesson that Kent Moore should try learning and it’s the message that the Tea Party here in Ohio has been trying to send the Republican establishment.

But there’s an underlying theme in Moore’s e-mail, that Seth Morgan needs to work harder. Supposedly he has been outworked by Dave Yost, he needs to work harder for his constituents, etc. But while we’re at it, shouldn’t Kent Moore be a little too busy to send fallacious e-mails about the Ohio Auditor of State primary race? He is, after all, the GOP chairman of a county that by Moore’s own admission has been negatively impacted by “too many years of one-party rule.” That one party is certainly not the Republican Party.

From the local level on up to congressional representation, Belmont County is a Democrat Party bastion. Incumbent Congressman Charlie Wilson will be waging his war against Republican challenger Bill Johnson from his Bridgeport headquarters in Belmont County. Ted Strickland will no doubt be returning to his Belmont County stomping grounds (Martins Ferry, for example) to try to work up support for reelection. Republican challengers will be fighting a tough battle to unseat Democrat incumbents at the local level.

My point is simple. Doesn’t Kent Moore have anything better to do? Which is it, Kent? Working hard, or hardly workin’?

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