Saturday, March 23, 2002

GOP dissidents protest at Taft's speech

By Cindi Andrews,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — About a dozen members of the Warren County Republican Party's inner circle walked out of a Lincoln Day dinner Friday night when Ohio Gov. Bob Taft rose to speak.

        “For me, it's a moral issue,” said Lori Viars of Lebanon. “The party has a pro-life plank. I'm standing by the party platform.”

        The protest was chiefly over Mr. Taft's choice of Jennette Bradley, an abortion-rights supporter from Columbus, as his running mate. Some also take issue with Mr. Taft's threat to veto concealed-gun legislation.

        Still, a crowd of more than 500 stayed to hear Mr. Taft.

        “I don't agree with his choice of a running mate, but we invited him to be here tonight and we should show him respect,” Warren County commissioner Mike Kilburn said.

        In addition to those who walked out, at least a half dozen others boycotted the event altogether and another dozen, from elsewhere in Southwest Ohio, picketed outside.

        “He's paying lip service to conservative principles to get our votes, but there's no "there' there,” said Randall Plikerd, a county central committee member who chose to stay home.

        Friday was Mr. Taft's fifth Lincoln Day appearance of the year, a campaign spokesman said, and the others took place without incident. However, B.J. Kresnye, an official with the Lake County GOP, said 20 to 30 people canceled reservations.

        Mr. Taft asked Warren County Republicans for their vote, noting that he signed legislation banning partial-birth abortion.

        Ms. Viars and other abortion opponents, however, say they will instead cast no vote in the governor's race.


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