In the Republican primary for Ohio governor, no one apparently wants Gov. John Kasich's endorsement - including the candidate who has it.
Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor told a large group of Clermont County Republicans during her interview for their endorsement last Wednesday that Kasich had endorsed Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his running mate, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, two Republicans in the room confirmed to The Enquirer.
But Kasich had endorsed Taylor, his running mate in 2006 and 2010.
"She said it’s widely known that Jon Husted and Mike DeWine have been endorsed by Gov. Kasich," Greg Simpson, a township executive for the Clermont County Republican Party, told The Enquirer. "I about fell off my chair, because it’s widely known that John Kasich had endorsed Mary Taylor."
Taylor was responding to a question about how she separated herself from the governor in a conservative county where that separation could make a difference. Simpson voted to endorse DeWine but the county party ultimately backed Taylor by a two-to-one margin.
"During (Taylor's) speech at the endorsement meeting last Wednesday, she said that she has not seen the governor for about a year and that Kasich is endorsing DeWine," Dave Uible, Clermont County GOP chairman, said in a text message.
Husted was waiting outside the room to make his pitch for his ticket when he learned about Taylor's claim.
"Siri, who did John Kasich endorse in the governor's race?" Husted asked his iPhone, already knowing the answer. An article from The Enquirer popped up, titled "John Kasich backs Mary Taylor for Ohio governor. Will it help?"
Husted held the cellphone up for Clermont County Republicans during his interview. See, he told them, Kasich was backing Taylor.
Neither side was eager to embrace the GOP governor, especially in conservative Clermont County just east of Cincinnati.
Kasich's decisions to expand Medicaid to lower-income Ohioans and bash President Donald Trump have upset Republicans there. Distancing herself from Kasich helped Taylor secure the Clermont County endorsement, Uible said.
Still, Kasich remains a popular governor statewide. About 57 percent of Ohioans approve of the job he's done here -- among the highest approval rating in the nation, according to a July Morning Consult poll.
Taylor's campaign spokesman Michael Duchesne said Taylor didn't lie to the Clermont County Republican Party about Kasich's endorsement.
But Taylor did point out, Duchesne said, that she had not spoken to Kasich in more than a year, Kasich has not been an active participant in the Taylor campaign and DeWine's campaign manager, Dave Luketic, is a Kasich veteran. (Luketic was the political director of both a Super PAC supporting Kasich's presidential bid and the governor's 2014 re-election bid with Taylor.)
Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf said that first statement wasn't true.
"The governor and lieutenant governor have certainly talked many times over the past year," he said.
Taylor might be distancing herself from Kasich now that she's seeking endorsements from Ohio's conservatives for her gubernatorial campaign, but that wasn't always the case.
Taylor campaigned for Kasich in his presidential bid against a slew of GOP candidates, including Trump, in 2015 and 2016. She stumped for Kasich from New Hampshire and Utah to Ohio. Taylor was a delegate for Kasich at the Republican National Convention, where Trump was the nominee.
"We have a chance now in our country to send somebody to Washington who displays the conservative leadership that is going to get our country back on track. He's done it in Ohio," Taylor told a crowd before the Boulder, Colo. presidential debate in 2015. "He is a proven leader. That proves he can win."
And now? "The majority of his team and people close to him are supporting Mike DeWine," Taylor told the Columbus Dispatch during a podcast last week. "I expect that that's the way it's going to continue, and we're going to continue to run this race and be the alternative to the establishment."
DeWine hasn't sought Kasich's endorsement because the governor gave it to Taylor, DeWine spokesman Ryan Stubenrauch said.
"Kasich made his decision," he said.