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WALNUT CREEK -- Addressing the Republican Party, its future and the "historic opportunities that we have to embrace the victories of 2016 and build upon them," Jane Timken was the featured speaker at Holmes County's recent Lincoln Day Dinner.
Timken, elected Jan. 6 to serve as chair of the Ohio Republican Party, was previously vice chairwoman of the Stark County Republican Party.
She said she belongs to a family that has always been politically active. "I believe that being active in the grassroots is important, and I'm the kind of person who actually loves to go door to door. You get to know what the voters are really thinking. Plus, I'm a big believer in the strength of county parties ... (which are) the backbone of the Ohio GOP."
The 2016 election
Timken said she threw her support initially to Gov. John Kasich in his bid for the White House, noting, "He has been an excellent governor for Ohio, turning the disastrous policies of Ted Strickland into a vibrant and thriving Ohio economy."
However, "Once President Trump won the nomination, it was imperative that we all get behind him, and I got involved right away."
She described an early fundraiser in Canton, designed to organize volunteers to turn out the vote for Trump, where "thousands were left waiting outside" because the venue had reached capacity. "The rally was electrifying, and I knew Trump would win Ohio and, quite possibly, the election."
The Republican family
"Like President Lincoln, I believe that a house divided against itself cannot stand. As Republicans, we must support each other and our candidates," said Timken, noting that while disagreements are inevitable, "they should never jeopardize our ability to elect Republicans."
"We are a Republican family that shares a passion for this great nation and believes in limiting government, separation of power, federalism and the rights of the people," she said, adding she is proud to see the party coming together in the weeks since the inauguration, and "I'm encouraged by the outpouring of support from many Ohio Republicans who have offered their assistance and support during our transition.
"There's no doubt that we are at the beginning of one of the most exciting times in Ohio Republican history. Our hard work in 2016 alongside the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee paid off big league," she said, drawing attention to Republican strongholds in the state and national governments.
"If there was ever a time to be excited about being a Republican in Ohio, now is the time. We must move our Republican agenda forward. We must encourage our Republican leaders to drive forward on policies that are important to us and to provide us the greatest benefit."
Topping priorities for Trump and Congress, she said, are the campaign promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Timken said, noting, "This is not just one of our talking points anymore, we actually have the ability and will to do it."
Doing so, she said, is especially critical at a time in which Ohioans are not only paying more for coverage, but losing access to care.
"Obamacare must go," she said.
While controversial among Democrats, Timken said, Trump has unrolled an extreme vetting program that fulfills another campaign promise, one that was "part of the major reasons why he was elected."
She was critical of protests and riots mounted against such and called to task actions of Ohio leaders who "break federal law" to make Cincinnati and Columbus sanctuary cities.
"We will make their mistakes sting this year. This is something that not only Congress can act on, but our Ohio legislators as well," Timken said.
The confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Timken said, "is huge for our state, where we have invested in school choice and believe that all children have a right to quality education and that parents should be able to make the most appropriate decisions for their children's education."
Further, she said, U.S. Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger has promised to make education a top priority in the upcoming budget process.
Promoting an agenda
She encouraged ongoing unification of the party and its candidates, current and future.
"The Ohio Republican party must be firmly committed to its grassroots and work alongside our county parties," Timken said, adding, "The strength of our party is found in rooms like this across the state.
She said party leaders must work to maintain the interest of a million new Republicans in the state, keeping them engaged and "on our side."
"President Trump inspired thousands of new party activists and volunteers to support our cause. These were people who previously never engaged in campaigning activities. They had never knocked on doors, made phone calls or even attended rallies," she said, noting those activists were previously unaffiliated and former Democrats who became alienated by their own party.
She encouraged those in attendance to capitalize on the excitement of those new Republicans to keep them with the party "so they can help us win again in 2018."
The next election
Moving toward 2018, she said, "Our party is blessed with extremely well-qualified leaders who are considering running for office.
"No matter who runs in 2018, primary voters cannot make a wrong decision," she said. She added that Ohio voters who helped Trump win the state, but rejected the "Obama-Clinton doctrine" will be more inclined to vote Republican after they've "lived through two years of fulfilling campaign promises from Republicans and more and more hysteria from the left."
She said she disagrees with the Democratic belief that violent protests are the answer to losing, rather than "coming to terms with the fact their far-left policies alienated millions of blue collar workers."
While she doubts those protests will generate votes for Republicans, "it should remind us all of the axiom, 'A man with nothing to lose will stop at nothing to win.'
"We can never underestimate our opponents or become complacent with our majorities," she said, adding, "I look forward to working with all of you to defend and support our republican leaders and candidates this year and in years to come."
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.