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DeWine will back GOP primary winner

Says he’ll support even those who criticized him

Gov. Mike DeWine will back the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate — even if it’s someone who has harshly criticized him.

“It’s important that Republicans control the U.S. Senate and Ohio may very well determine that so as someone who spent 12 years in the U.S. Senate, I know the power the majority leader has and having the majority leader be a Republican is very, very important, particularly in countering some of the things the (President Joe) Biden administration might want to do,” DeWine said Tuesday during an hour-plus interview with Ogden Newspapers’ editors and reporters.

Some of the Republican candidates for Senate — particularly ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel, the current frontrunner — have been openly critical of DeWine, a fellow Republican, primarily because of the restrictions he put in place early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeWine said he’d have no issue sharing a campaign rally stage and supporting the winner of the Republican primary for Senate even if that person opposes his re-election bid.

“It comes from my own experience,” he said. “The majority leader has significant power and a lot more than the minority leader. The majority leader sets the agenda and that’s vitally important. Chuck Schumer (the current majority leader and a Democrat) or Mitch McConnell (the minority leader)? To me, that’s not a close call. I’m for Mitch McConnell being the majority leader.”

DeWine said he won’t endorse in the Republican primary in May because “I’ve got a race to focus on, and I have learned that you don’t want to divert your focus on other things than that race. I’m focused on getting re-elected.”

DeWine also said he never considered running for the Senate when incumbent Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, announced last year that he would not seek another term.

DeWine is running this year for his second and final four-year term.

Asked if this was his last campaign, DeWine said: “I certainly don’t have any plans to run for office again, not at least at this moment in my mind. That’s the operating premise Fran (his wife) and I are operating on.”

REDISTRICTING VOTE

DeWine said he voted for a state legislative map that greatly favors Republicans as a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission because GOP and Democratic members had their own plans and were not interested in negotiating.

“When you look at (the plans), they were very close,” he said. “They were only five members apart for the Democratic plan and the Republican plan. When you get that close, you ought to make a deal.”

DeWine said he wanted the two sides to “split the difference” and get a 10-year map, but neither side was willing to budge and “frankly, that surprised me.”

Republicans contend their map gives their political party an advantage in 62 of the 99 House districts and in 23 of the 33 Senate districts with a number of them considered competitive.

But based on partisan voting trends in statewide races over the past decade, the Republican map actually gives that party the advantage in 65 House districts.

The Democrats’ final map gave Republicans a 57-42 advantage in the House and a 19-14 edge in the Senate.

DeWine said when he looked at the two maps, he favored the Republican one because it was “more constitutional” in that it “split up less counties” and municipalities, and had “a significant number of competitive races.”

In the Republican House map, only eight of the 99 districts could be considered competitive in that one political party has only a 6 percent or less advantage over the other based on the past decade of partisan statewide voting trends. Of those eight, five lean Democratic.

In the Republican Senate map, just four of the 33 districts could be considered competitive, falling within that 6 percent maximum for a political party. All four favor Republicans.

DeWine also said he “knew all along that the Ohio Supreme Court would make decisions” on the constitutionality of the maps. The court currently is considering the constitutionality of the maps in three lawsuits.

“If they decide it wasn’t right, we’ll follow that direction,” DeWine said.

DeWine said he didn’t know when the court would decide and wouldn’t speculate on the decision.

One of those who will vote on the constitutionality of the maps is Justice Pat DeWine, a son of the governor who has been criticized for not recusing himself.

The governor said he wouldn’t comment on his son’s decision, and he makes it a point to “never discuss cases with him.”

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