The antics of the Democratic Party make it easy to lose sight of other enemies, especially those standing right beside us. The fog of political war conceals not only the foes in the field but also fake allies. Jane Timken’s case is illustrative.
Timken recently announced her plan to run for the Senate in 2022, following incumbent Ohio Republican Rob Portman’s recent decision not to seek reelection. She served as vice chairwoman of the Stark County Republican Party until becoming the first female chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party in 2017. Timken resigned in February when Portman’s retirement presented her with a possible path to the Senate. High-profile praise from a few people in Donald Trump’s orbit has already come her way.
Timken’s messaging puts her hip to hip with Trump. “I’m running for the United States Senate to stand up for you,” she said in a campaign ad, “just like when I stood next to President Trump.” Timken claims that she plans to “advance the Trump agenda.”
Signaling Trumpism But Acting Establishment
There are problems, however, with her posturing as a standard-bearer for the America First movement: Timken’s connection to Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Trump’s latest bête noire, and her record in Ohio politics more generally.
Gonzalez is Timken’s protege, and she spent years mentoring him and eventually backing to the hilt his run for the House of Representatives. He was elected in 2018, defeating primary opponent Christina M. Hagan-Nemeth. Though she refused explicitly to endorse either candidate, Timken’s husband provided Gonzalez generous financial aid.
During the 2018 election cycle, Tim Timken donated $10,000 to Gonzalez’s campaign through his company, TimkenSteel. Meanwhile, according to political journalist Ryan Girdusky, Timken’s “team forced other candidates out of the race and threatened to ruin any consultants that worked for anyone besides Gonzalez.”
Gonzalez secured reelection in 2020. Just two months later, on January 13, 2021, he joined nine other House Republicans and voted to impeach Trump.
“Current Rep. Anthony Gonzalez should not be representing the people of the 16th district because he does not represent their interest or their heart,” Trump said in a statement. The former president might be right. But before she decided to run for Senate, Timken strongly defended Gonzalez from criticism over his vote to impeach Trump, saying that he had “a rational reason” to vote for impeachment. It was only after Timken decided to run for Senate and, presumably, upon realizing she needed an endorsement from Trump that she walked back her earlier defense of Gonzalez.
Dyed in the Wool Establishment
The problem with the Republican Party in the post-Trump era is that otherwise bad candidates can rehabilitate their images by pledging allegiance to the “MAGA agenda”—whatever that means. Candidates are weighed and measured on “loyalty” to Trump rather than the substance of their political ideas. Indeed, Timken has a long habit of aggressively punching to her political right, which she hopes people will forget because of her recent MAGA rhetoric.
Following a weekend of shootings in 2019, Ohio State Representative Candice Keller (R-Middletown) pointed at the breakdown of the traditional family, an increasingly morally unmoored society, and drug abuse as the culprit. Timken didn’t just reprimand Keller—she demanded Keller’s resignation. In other words, Timken wanted Keller canceled for being conservative—and for telling the truth—and she made it a point to unseat her in the 2020 election. In fact, Timken is notorious for working to defeat conservative officeholders like Keller in Ohio.
In January 2020, Warren County’s GOP Central Committee chairwoman Lori Viars and 16 other self-described conservative Republican women wrote a letter expressing their frustration with Timken for attacking Keller as she has done to several others. The group wrote they were “disappointed once again” that Timken and her Ohio GOP allies were “working against yet another female conservative in a Republican primary.”
They claim Timken has worked against female conservatives “in order to help their less conservative male counterparts” and spends GOP donor money to undermine conservative Republicans. They also state that her efforts, ironically, have aimed mostly at defeating “conservative candidates who have been more supportive of President Trump than their opponents.”
At the time, Viars told the Journal-News that Timken worked through a local attorney to pressure another candidate, Lee Wong, to drop out of the 4th Ohio Senate District race. Wong told reporters that a local attorney attempted to “intimidate” him to resign by citing survey results that allegedly showed he had no chance to win the Ohio Senate race. Wong believed that the attorney had been sent by Timken-endorsed challenger George Lang’s camp—which Lang denied. Keller and Wong ultimately lost to Lang.
When Timken is not policing genuine anti-establishment candidates, she reframes the old uniparty consensus as new and different while denouncing critics as misinformed or malicious.
In late 2019, Trump signed an executive order that empowered states, cities, counties, and towns to block refugee resettlement. The policy of resettlement may sound noble in theory, but ultimately it is not transparent and remains vulnerable to special interests in search of cheap labor. Further, it does not consider whether a community has the resources to handle a refugee “dump”—resources necessary to help the needy and homeless already there.
As Ohio Governor Mike DeWine drew criticism for opting to continue resettling refugees, Timken swooped in to wag a finger at detractors.
“Accusations that the federal government is letting dangerous individuals into the country through poor vetting are no longer accurate,” she said in a statement. “President Trump’s administration approves every refugee resettled into Ohio, and the process is now very stringent. We can now be confident in how the federal government is vetting refugees.”
Timken actually used one of the few substantive immigration restriction policies enacted by the Trump Administration to argue for more immigration, implicitly framing detractors not only as fearmongers but at odds with Trump himself. It’s worth noting, moreover, that DeWine and Timken insisted on admitting more refugees into Ohio at a time when opioid deaths, homelessness, and child homelessness are on the rise in the Buckeye State.
People like Timken claim to be carrying forward a torch that was lit in 2016. In reality, they are merely capitalizing on the Trump brand to conceal otherwise rotten platforms that ensure forgotten Americans stay forgotten. Will Republicans push back on bad endorsements, even when they come from Trump?