When I wrote my previous post, I knew that it would ruffle some feathers and I knew exactly why it would ruffle some feathers. What I did not count on was a complete plucking of those feathers so that I could subsequently be tarred and feathered with them.
The controversy surrounds my inclusion of State Sen. Jimmy Stewart, who represents Athens County (my home county), in my post. I knew that including Stewart in the post would be controversial, but I also knew that excluding him while going after the other nine state senators with questionable voting records would be playing favorites. In hindsight, I should have come up with a better choice of words for the title of the post since I do not believe Sen. Stewart is a RINO. Let me say that again: I do not believe Sen. Stewart is a RINO.
As anyone can see from reading my previous post, Sen. Stewart received some of the mildest criticism. I mentioned that he has not taken a position on Third Frontier (he hasn’t), and I mentioned that he is cosponsoring a childhood obesity bill with goals that would be better left to parental and personal responsibility (and, well, he is). But these are not exactly capital offenses. They’re certainly no reason to vote Sen. Stewart out of office, nor are they reason to label him a RINO.
Still, all of this has created some controversy here in Athens County. I think a lot of it has to do with the strong loyalty that many Republicans here feel toward Sen. Stewart, which I share. But I think it also has to do with what this blog has been doing over the past several weeks. I have been an outspoken supporter of Seth Morgan’s candidacy for Auditor of State and a vocal critic of Dave Yost. Meanwhile, many of those who are so outraged over my purported “attack” on Sen. Stewart were overheard just a few weeks ago complaining about anyone who would dare circulate petitions for “non-ORP endorsed candidates.” I think you can connect the dots.
But since so much controversy has been created, let me clear up a few things. I’ll say again that I don’t think Sen. Stewart is a RINO, and using that term in the title of my post to apply to all of the state senators I would subsequently talk about was a poor choice. I regret it and I apologize for it. Given the district that he represents, where elected Republicans are almost as rare as unicorns, Sen. Stewart is as conservative as he can possibly be.
When it counts, when it really counts, Sen. Stewart stands against the intrusion of big government into the lives of his constituents. Yes, maybe he is cosponsoring a childhood obesity bill that I believe is unnecessary; but more importantly, he stood against Gov. Strickland’s $900 million tax increase. For this vote against Strickland’s tax increase, the liberal media of Athens County heaped scorn upon him. He knew that would happen, but he did what was best for his constituents anyway. When it comes right down to it, that is conservative enough for me.
Taking things a step further, were Sen. Stewart to ever receive a primary challenge from his right I would support Sen. Stewart. For one thing, anyone to Sen. Stewart’s right would be a loser in Athens County. But for another thing, I like Sen. Stewart and I believe that, far more often than not, he is looking out for his constituents and adhering to the core values that should guide the Republican Party. Anyone who ever challenged him from his right, anyone who ever called him a RINO, would be persona non grata to me. I sincerely regret the appearance of doing that myself, because I truly do not believe that Sen. Stewart is a RINO. I believe that he is as conservative as he can be in this district and that, somewhat akin to Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he is doing what he feels is best for his constituents.
That’s the kind of leeway that one can afford Republicans who are representing liberal districts or liberal states. In fact, that’s the kind of leeway that we must afford Republicans in liberal districts and liberal states if we want to be competitive in every district and every state.
Republicans who are insufficiently conservative in states that are friendly to conservatives are another matter. Sen. Stewart can be granted some leeway, given that he represents Athens County. As a statewide candidate in a state that is friendly to conservatives, with a political environment in which people are craving conservatism, Dave Yost deserves no such leeway. Dave Yost is the candidate of the Ohio Republican Party establishment, which has been notoriously hostile to conservatives. Unlike Sen. Stewart, Dave Yost does not deserve the support of conservatives.
That was the point I was trying to make in my previous post. Instead, that post has been construed by some of my fellow Republicans in Athens County as an attack on State Sen. Jimmy Stewart. No such attack was intended, and I apologize for offending any of my fellow Athens County Republicans, for offending Sen. Stewart, or for creating unnecessary division within the party.