Donald Trump claimed some measure of political revenge against Ohio Gov. John Kasich for shunning his presidential campaign, after helping oust a key Kasich loyalist from atop the state Republican party.
Trump threw his support behind Jane Timken, who on Friday narrowly defeated Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges. The president-elect even got personally involved, calling members of the 66-person Central Committee to lobby on Timken’s behalf.
“At first I thought it was a fake phone call,” Cincinnati-area committee member Greg Simpson told Cleveland.com. “Then all of the sudden, he’s talking to me.”
Simpson said Trump touted Timken, a party activist and donor, without bashing Borges, who last year offered only lukewarm support for Trump’s campaign.
Borges appeared largely caught in the political crossfire, considering Kasich, a failed 2016 GOP presidential candidate, refused to endorse Trump after he won the party primary, despite signing a pledge to support the eventual nominee.
Kasich then refused to officially attend the Republican convention this past summer in Cleveland, despite being governor of the host state.
By the numbers, Borges logged a strong track record since becoming chairman in 2013.
He led Ohio Republicans in going undefeated in statewide races in 2014 and 2016, helped thwart Democrats’ attempt this year to unseat incumbent GOP Sen. Rob Portman, delivered votes in battleground Ohio for Trump and brought a major party convention to the state for the first time in 80 years.
“This run … as chairman of the party has been really the most exceptional experience, professional, of my entire life,” said Borges, who also suggested that he was pleased the outcome of the chairmanship vote could bring Kasich and Trump closer.
Still, Borges was at least partially responsible for drawing Trump’s ire. He said last summer on Twitter that then-Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort “still has a lot to learn about Ohio politics” and that Manafort “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
The campaign later suggested Borges was hopping on the Trump bandwagon late in the race to further his career, with an eye on becoming the next Republican National Committee chairman.
“It’s no great secret that Chairman Borges was never fully on board, but his actions over the past week demonstrate that his loyalties to Governor John Kasich’s failed presidential campaign eclipse his responsibility as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party,” Trump’s Ohio campaign manager, Rob Paduchik, said in an October letter to the state central committee.
Paduchik, who is Trump’s pick for RNC co-chairman, also reportedly appealed to committee members to vote for Timken, which has resulted in a complaint that such meddling is in violation of RNC rules.