Some prominent Ohio Republicans are sparring over renewable-energy policy, with each side claiming to represent conservative Ohioans.
This started on Jan. 10 when the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, an advocacy group, published poll results showing that a majority of self-identified Ohio conservatives are in favor of policies that support wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
Two days later, House Majority Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, sent a mass email criticizing the poll. He is a leading critic of renewable-energy mandates and subsidies.
“The wind lobby is ramping up its minions to tout a new ‘statewide poll’… purporting to show that conservatives ‘overwhelmingly support clean energy policies,'” he said.
He described the group as “astroturf,” a derisive term for an organization that is concealing ulterior motives.
One by one, he responded to claims made by the poll results, including the core premise that conservative voters overwhelmingly support clean energy policies.
“You bet” they support clean energy, Seitz said in response. “But mandates are not a conservative’s way of getting there. True conservatives use their own money to further policies in which they believe.”
The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, the group behind the poll, is led by Mike Hartley, a lobbyist who has worked on Republican campaigns for decades, including those of U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, and Gov. John Kasich. The group started in 2015 and says it supports all forms of energy, from traditional Ohio sources, such as coal, to renewable sources, such as wind and solar.
On Monday, Hartley sent an open letter to Ohio General Assembly members in response to Seitz’s message.
While beginning by calling Seitz “a tremendous legislator and a very honorable public servant,” the letter continues to say that Seitz “is not aligned with the values and priorities of Ohio conservatives on clean energy policy and its many economic benefits just waiting to be realized.”
Hartley uses some of the poll results to back his point of view, such as the fact that 79 percent of self-identified Ohio conservatives say “they would tell a Republican candidate to support policies that encourage energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energy in the state.”
He notes that the pollster, Public Opinion Strategies, has also done work for the campaign arms of Ohio House and Senate Republicans and has a strong track record.
“I have been working to elect conservative candidates and advance conservative policy in Ohio for nearly 20 years,” he said in the open letter.
“It is unfortunate that Rep. Seitz has chosen to assert that this poll and my efforts to promote it are part of some sort of liberal plot. But I am encouraged and empowered by my fellow conservatives to continue pushing for the economic benefits that await Ohio when we embrace forward-looking clean energy policy.”
This is occurring as the General Assembly is considering several proposals dealing with renewable energy, and as Kasich and business groups say the state’s economy could be harmed if leaders are reluctant to encourage investment in new energy technologies.
Because Republicans hold large majorities in the House and Senate, the outcome on those issues likely will come down to who wins the debate within the party.
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