GOP strikes it Rich
from Columbus address

BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

If you were to slip on your kitchen floor this morning, conk your head and develop temporary amnesia, there is one thing you could easily figure out - where you live.

Just walk out on the front porch and look at the number on your door or mailbox. Then look for the nearest street sign bearing the name of the street your house faces.

You may not know who you are, but you'll know where you live.

But things are not so simple for the leadership of the Ohio Republican Party (ORP); and they haven't even been conked on the head, not that we know of.

The Republicans in Columbus are having a hard time remembering where they live.

You see, they recently bought a two-story, Colonial-style office building on the south end of downtown Columbus, sank about $1.5 million into it, and turned it into their new state-of-the-art headquarters.

The building sits at the corner of Rich Street and South Fifth Street. It used to be the home of Business First, a Columbus business publication. When Business First lived there, it listed its address as 200 E. Rich St., which only made sense, since the front door is only about 10 feet from the curb of Rich Street.

But when the Republicans moved in, somebody decided that it probably wouldn't be a good idea for a political party that has a long-standing reputation as being the champions of capital gains tax cuts and trickle-down economics to have the words Rich Street on the party letterhead.

So the sensitive souls down at the ORP looked around the corner and decided that, rather than bear the brunt of endless jokes from the Ohio Democratic Party (which resides on Broad Street, by the way), they would just call themselves the Ohio Republican Party at 211 S. Fifth St.

We can only imagine what they might have done had they bought a building on Gay Street, another downtown Columbus avenue.

Friday morning, while party leaders were getting ready for a grand opening ceremony for their new headquarters building, we took a stroll around the building and found no door on the South Fifth Street side. The only entrance we could find was a set of windows, and you'd have to jimmy those to get in. We doubt if the mail carrier will be crawling in the South Fifth Street window to deliver those envelopes with checks from the party faithful.

So, Friday morning, the crowd gathered on the Rich Street side and "rich" remained a word that is not spoken at 211 S. Fifth St. Neither is "deal," as in the claim that ORP leaders cut a deal with Bob Taft seven years ago to get him out of the gubernatorial race, where he was set to challenge George Voinovich, and into the secretary of state's race.

The "deal," as reported back then, was that Mr. Taft would get a free shot and a clear field for the gubernatorial nomination in 1998. Mr. Taft, of course, was elected secretary of state, and is now running for governor; but State Treasurer J. Kenneth Blackwell is threatening to challenge him next spring; and decries the Taft "deal" at every turn.

Lately, with the heat from Mr. Blackwell increasing, ORP chairman Bob Bennett has gone out of his way on numerous occasions to say that there never was a deal, just a commitment from the state and national parties to help fund Mr. Taft's run for secretary of state.

Mr. Bennett, in fact, seems to be getting frustrated by Mr. Blackwell's talk of the Taft "deal" and the repeated references to it in the statewide press.

It's getting so bad he may have to start sneaking into party headquarters through the Rich Street door.

Howard Wilkinson's politics column appears Sundays.