Capital News: Do GOP state reps stand to lose most from JobsOhio criticism?

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

Columbus -- Assume, for a moment, that all five Republicans holding statewide office will easily secure second terms next year.

The economy is in pretty good shape, compared to the days of the "Great Recession" prior to when Gov. John Kasich and the others took office, and people are generally more upbeat about their prospects, so let's pretend that Kasich & Co. will cruise to easy victories in November 2014.

It's a big assumption, particularly given at least one widely quoted poll that was released last week, but for the sake of this space, just play along. And stop writing that angry email pointing out the other flaws in the statement.

It's probably a safe bet that Republicans will continue to dominate the Ohio Senate, where Democrats aren't making much headway.

That leaves the Ohio House, which has switched from Republican to Democratic and back to Republican control in recent years.

The GOP holds a super majority in the chamber, but just barely. And at least one seat, the one occupied by Rep. Al Landis (R-Dover), was won by only a handful of votes, with contested ballots that could have reversed the results tossed.

There's a lot of inner turmoil in the House majority party as of late. Factions have formed over issues like Medicaid. Sides are lining up behind potential new speakers to replace Bill Batchelder.

Republicans are still in control, they're still a big family, but they're not as happy as they once were.

Then along comes the ongoing brouhaha over JobsOhio. Democrats aren't letting up on public criticism of the private nonprofit set up by Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature to spearhead the state's economic development efforts, mostly outside of public view.

There's lots of questions about JobsOhio that remain unanswered. There's lots of speculation about what's happening behind closed doors. And there's a growing perception that the setup will lead to impropriety, if it hasn't already.

Democrats smell blood here, and they're hammering on JobsOhio and Kasich daily.

"This whole mess of cronyism and self-dealing at JobsOhio, which now includes Gov. Kasich himself, is clearly unethical, and if it isn't illegal, it ought to be," Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive who hopes to unseat Kasich, railed in a recent released statement.

We'll hear lots more criticism of JobsOhio in the months ahead, as we enter what should be an ugly campaign season. But back to my earlier assumption: Who stands to lose the most from all of the talk of scandal?

Under my earlier assumption, it's not the statewide officeholders or GOP members of the Ohio Senate.

My bet is House Republicans.

Already dealing with a measure of in-fighting and potential primary challenges from Tea Party and other conservative groups unhappy with some members' stances on Medicaid, representatives out talking to folks in their districts now have to answer questions about their support of JobsOhio.

Kasich isn't giving them much help, brushing off questions without too much explanation and sticking to his argument that JobsOhio is working and jobs are being created. He's also shifting some of his attention to a federal balanced budget amendment, with much speculation of his presidential aspirations.

That can't be helping lawmakers in tighter races, where swaying the opinions of a few voters is all that's needed to change the outcome and erase the GOP super majority in the House.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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