KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — With Election Day weeks away, Donald Trump’s campaign has denounced the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, deepening a rift in a state critical to Trump’s White House hopes.
GOP Chairman Matt Borges has been organizing the state party’s resources behind Trump’s bid and offering advice to the nominee. But Borges also is an ally of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of Trump’s primary rivals. Kasich has been critical of Trump and recently told Ohio reporters he may not vote for him in the race against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s Ohio chairman, Bob Paduchik, says Trump is not happy.
“Chairman Borges has routinely exaggerated his relationship with the candidate and the campaign,” Paduchik wrote Saturday in a letter to state party committee members. “Chairman Borges does not represent or speak for the candidate and he no longer has any affiliation with the Trump-Pence campaign.” Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is Trump’s running mate.
Paduchik wrote he expects the Ohio Republican Party to continue paying the Trump campaign’s Ohio payroll and expenses. Paduchik said he spoke to Trump on Thursday.
“He is very disappointed in Matt’s duplicity,” Paduchik wrote.
Borges and several members of the party’s state central committee said Paduchik’s comments would not get in the way of electing Republicans.
“I won’t let a (campaign) staffer’s ego get in the way of us doing all we can to win elections up and down the ballot this year,” Borges said in a statement, referring to Paduchik.
With its 18 electoral votes, Ohio is crucial to winning the presidency as Trump sees his prospects diminish in other closely contested states such as Virginia.
The tension between the Trump campaign and the state party, full of Kasich loyalists, isn’t new, yet Trump has relied heavily on the state party for campaign operations. Angering party officials could damage the campaign as the Nov. 8 vote nears.
Paduchik also accused Borges of being more focused on becoming the next chairman of the Republican National Committee than on helping Trump. Borges has been mentioned as a possible RNC successor to Reince Preibus, a Trump ally.
The tipping point for Trump’s campaign appears, in part, to be Borges’ decision let a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter watch the most recent presidential debate with Borges and his wife. The couple told the reporter they were conflicted about what to do on Election Day.
“I’ve got to think about what I want to remember having done … 10 years from now,” Borges was quoted as saying.
Paduchik included the article and several others in the email he sent out to state committee members.
Jim Simon, a state party committee member, said that in a challenging election season, Borges has “handled it perfectly. Drawing fire away from our candidates and officeholders is the chairman’s job, which is something I’m sure Bob doesn’t understand,” he said in a statement.