Is Mary Taylor Ohio’s Sarah Palin?

Columbus—Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, today questioned whether Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor is “becoming an independent political agent who is increasingly ‘going rogue’ with a personal agenda that is often at odds with that of the Kasich Administration.”

The phrase “going rogue” was coined in 2008 by senior McCain for President campaign officials to describe the tendency of former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin to ignore directives, refuse to be a team player, and to act and speak independently of the campaign of which she was a part. Palin later embraced the term and even used it as the title for one of her books. Like Palin, Mary Taylor is a favorite of the Tea Party wing of the GOP.

Said IO Communications Director Dale Butland:

“The similarities between Sarah Palin and Mary Taylor are striking. Both are favorites of the GOP’s Tea Party wing. Both clearly relish their ‘independence’ from the top-of-the-ticket politicians who selected them as running mates. And both see no problem with contradicting their bosses in public, arrogating special privileges to themselves, or building separate political power bases for their own future endeavors.

“In less than a year as Lt. Governor, Ms. Taylor has:

  • Flatly and publicly contradicted Gov. Kasich on whether Ohio will create a health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. While the Governor and his chief health care advisor, Greg Moody, have repeatedly said Ohio will create an exchange, the Lt. Governor has said just as repeatedly that “no decision has been made.” She’s crisscrossed the state publicly denouncing the law, published several newspaper columns attacking the exchange, and, as State Insurance Commissioner, dragged her feet in implementing one. She’s missed several application deadlines for federal funding, and even returned a $1 million federal grant Ohio received to help consumers challenge claim denials by insurance companies. Perhaps most incredibly of all, Ms. Taylor has refused to appear, testify, or tell the General Assembly what she or her office are doing to advance the creation of an exchange.
  • Despite candidate Kasich’s widely reported campaign attacks against former Gov. Ted Strickland for having the state airplane pick him up at one Columbus airport rather than another, Ms. Taylor not only has repeatedly used the state plane herself (highly unusual for a Lt. Governor), but insisted on being picked up and dropped off at the Akron-Canton Airport near her Uniontown home where she lives and often works. Ms. Taylor belatedly wrote reimbursement checks to the state totaling over $1,000 for those flights, but only after Gov. Kasich found out about them, concluded that they were “a problem” and demanded that she reimburse the state.
  • While most Governors employ “regional liaisons” around the state, few if any Lt. Governors have ever done so. Ms. Taylor, however, has employed at least four such “regional liaisons”  at a cost to taxpayers of over $216,000 per year in salaries alone (see IO’s Governor’s Office Staff List). Since liaisons are often described as a Governor’s ‘political eyes and ears’ around the state, it is unclear why a Lt. Governor would need or think she was entitled to “her own” political patronage jobs.
  • Unlike every other statewide officeholder (Governor, attorney general, auditor, treasurer and secretary of state) Ms. Taylor was the only one who did not live in the state capital and was not based in a Columbus office when she served as State Auditor. Though the
  • Columbus Dispatch says her trips to Akron-Canton on the state plane “raise questions about where she is based now” administration spokespeople insisted she spends “a majority of her work time in Columbus.” Significantly, however, they failed to provide any substantiating evidence, such as appointment calendars or parking pass ‘swipe’ data.
  • Finally, Lt. Governor Taylor was the only member of Gov. Kasich’s cabinet who failed to attend his December 19 “year-end review” for the Ohio news media. Her weak explanation (that she had to attend a previously scheduled ‘continuing education’ class) only added to the conspicuousness of her absence.

“Contradicting the Governor. Failing to show up at Cabinet functions. Using the state airplane and asking to be picked up and dropped off in Canton. Creating her own political patronage jobs at taxpayer expense. Refusing to live in Columbus or keep regular office hours like every other statewide officeholder. If she’s not a Sarah Palin wannabe, she’ll certainly do until one comes along. In the meantime, her activities raise a fundamental question: on the ‘Kasich-Taylor Team’, who’s the boss?”

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