COLUMBUS - Ohio Gov. John Kasich won't attend the state Republican party's annual fundraising dinner Saturday - avoiding a potentially awkward meeting with keynote speaker Vice President Mike Pence.
A spokesman said Kasich won't attend because of a prior family engagement. Last year, Kasich spoke at the dinner shortly after suspending his presidential campaign.
The dinner in Columbus is sold out, according to the Ohio Republican Party's web page. It comes as Kasich and Pence feud over health care.
Last week Pence falsely accused Kasich's Medicaid expansion of causing long waiting lists for people with developmental disabilities – the latest jab from President Donald Trump's administration aimed at Ohio's governor.
Pence was pitching Senate Republican's latest Obamacare replacement proposal to governors Friday when he poked at Kasich. The vice president blamed Ohio's Medicaid expansion for "nearly 60,000 disabled citizens are stuck in waiting lists (for Medicaid), leaving them without the care they need for months or even years.”
Pence implied Kasich, who was not there, would be "very troubled" by that number.
Almost immediately, Kasich's team shot back, calling Pence's statement "fake news" and "completely untrue."
That's because lower-income Ohioans receiving health care through the expansion aren't taking money away from the 60,000 people with developmental disabilities on county waiting lists for Medicaid services.
Here's why: The money comes from two separate pots, Ohio had waiting lists long before Kasich expanded Medicaid and experts such as the Kaiser Family Foundation found no link between waiting lists and the expansion.
"(O)verall, there is no clear connection between expanding Medicaid and rising waiting list numbers. In fact, non-expansion states were more likely to see their waiting lists grow," Politifact wrote, ranking Pence's statement "false."
Pence, who expanded Medicaid as governor of Indiana, has backed off the comparison, but singling out Kasich at all makes a statement. It's the latest attack in a year-long feud between Kasich and his former primary rival, President Donald Trump.
Trump and his associates bashed Kasich for not attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last year. Trump made calls to oust Kasich's pick for Ohio Republican Party chairman. Kasich has criticized Trump's proposed travel ban, health care reform and lack of experience. Ohio's governor did not endorse Trump and voted instead for Arizona Sen. John McCain.
But Pence had been largely deferential to Kasich, complimenting the governor at campaign events in Ohio and consulting him on proposals to overhaul Obamacare.
Has their relationship soured? Ohio Republicans might have a chance to find out Saturday. Pence is headlining the state party's fundraising dinner.