GOP Candidates Spar Over Ohio Collective-Bargaining Law

By Sean Cavanagh — October 27, 2011 2 min read
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Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has offered his support for Ohio’s controversial law limiting collective bargaining, but some rivals are questioning his commitment.

Romney was accused by fellow GOP candidates Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry of flip-flopping and offering only tepid support for the law, which is the subject of a repeal effort is backed by unions and many Democrats.

That measure, which is supported by Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, would strip teachers and other public workers of many collective-bargaining powers. Backers of the law maintain it will reign in local government costs and save taxpayers money.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, had given his public backing for Kasich’s efforts previously. But critics seized on remarks that Romney made earlier this week, in which, by some interpretations, he appeared to suggest he was not taking a position on the Ohio fight.

Huntsman and Perry seized on those comments to accuse Romney of waffling.

“Unlike @MittRomney, I stand with John Kasich in opposing the individual mandate and supporting public sector union reform. Pls RT,” tweeted Huntsman, a former Utah governor.

“Mitt Romney’s finger-in-the-wind politics continued today when he refused to support right-to-work reforms signed by Ohio Governor John Kasich—reforms Romney supported in June,” Perry’s team said in a statement. Perry is governor of Texas.

Adding to the intrigue: a Quinnipiac poll released this week that showed Ohio voters favoring repeal of law by a wide margin.

But on Wednesday, Romney said he had been misunderstood, telling an audience at a campaign stop that he meant he was not taking a position on other items on the Ohio ballot—but that he supported Kasich’s law, now known on the ballot as Issue 2.

“I fully support that,” Romney said at an appearance on Wednesday. “I am 110 percent behind Gov. Kasich and in support of that question.”

All of this greatly pleased the Ohio Democratic Party, whose chairman called Romney a “serial flip-flopper.”

The fact that Issue 2 has risen to the realm of presidential politics probably speaks to Ohio’s importance to all of the candidates—and to the law’s broader signficance. As was the case with Wisconsin’s passage of a similiar law earlier this year, the fate of the Ohio measure could send a signal to other governors and lawmakers considering similiar proposals to either push forward, or pursue a different strategy.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.