A group of Ohioans who have been influential in Republican party leadership say they’re coming together for one purpose: to defeat President Trump in November.
Former Cincinnati City Council member and Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich has been active in Republican politics for decades. But this election, he’s jumping the political fence and urging a vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“We are asking our fellow Republicans to be patriots and not partisans," Heimlich says.
Heimlich is part of a group known as Operation Grant, named after Ohio-born President Ulysses S. Grant, who this group credits for unifying the country after the Civil War. It's the latest effort among anti-Trump Republicans to target Ohio voters who may be dissatisfied with the president's leadership.
Among Operation Grant's supporters is former Shelby County GOP chair Christopher Gibbs. He argues Trump has hurt farmers considerably with failed trade policies then made them wards of the government through federal aid packages.
“With markets in tatters and prices below the cost of production, farmers had little choice but to grab hold of that money, say, 'Thank you, sir,' shut up and hunker down," Gibbs says.
Major General Dennis Laich, also a Republican, says Trump doesn’t respect the troops who are fighting to keep the country safe from harm. Operation Grant already funded one attack ad featuring veterans criticizing Trump.
“Our commander in chief is an incompetent sociopath who places America’s national security at risk," Laich says.
Other backers are Tyler Fehrman, the whistleblower in the federal racketeering investigation against former House Speaker Larry Householder.
“Over the past few years, I have witnessed the degradation of the Republican party and the United States at the hands of President Donald J. Trump," Fehrman says. "His vile and despicable language which he uses on a regular basis in relation to women – those we call mothers, sisters, daughters and leaders, in relation to minorities – those who struggle under the hand of oppression through no fault of their own, the language he uses toward immigrants – those who desperately seek a better life for themselves and their families and toward his political opponents."
(Former Ohio GOP chair Matt Borges, who was also charged in the federal racketeering scheme, had previously announced the creation of the Right Side PAC on behalf of Biden.)
Rocky Saxbe is a former Ohio Republican lawmaker and a financial contributor to many candidates for office. He says there aren’t any high-profile elected officials involved in Operation Grant, because Trump is using fear of retribution as a way to keep Republicans in check.
“So he has the party and party leaders held hostage, and we are being led over the cliff, and the country is being led over the cliff," Saxbe says.
Heimlich says the Republican Party needs Biden to win to save itself, return to its core values and revive a spirited two-party system.
“One of the discouraging things for many of us is how many Republican elected officials and party leaders have refused to speak up," Heimlich said. "They have become enablers of this president."
When asked if the party had any comment on Operation Grant, Ohio Republican Party spokesman Evan Machan replied, “No one cares about these former Republicans. Ohio stands firmly behind President Trump.”