- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trying to tamp down a growing political storm, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday that he backs an Ohio referendum that would preserve a new state law that curtails the bargaining rights of public-sector employee unions, a day after coming under criticism from his primary rivals and conservative activists for appearing to hedge on the hot-button issue.

“I fully support that,” Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said while campaigning in Fairfax in the voter-rich Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington — a region likely to play a key role in determining who wins the state’s electoral votes in the 2012 vote.

Mr. Romney took heat from conservatives Tuesday after he appeared unwilling to take a position on the repeal of what is known as SB-5, an effort that has become a rallying point for unions looking to flex their political muscle in the Midwest. Texas Gov. Rick Perry immediately issued a statement saying he backed the law, a top priority of Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Gov. Kasich and the Republican leadership of Ohio are to be commended for their efforts,” Mr. Perry said in a statement, adding pointedly that “my record as a pro-jobs governor is clear and you don’t have to wonder where I stand.”

A “yes” vote means that voters would keep a law, signed earlier this year by Mr. Kasich, to limit the collective-bargaining rights for roughly 350,000 public workers in the state. A poll this week showed that Mr. Kasich may be heading for a defeat in the Nov. 8 vote, with those favoring repeal at 57 percent to just 32 percent supporting the law.

During his appearance in Northern Virginia, Mr. Romney tried to clarify his stance, following comments on a visit to Ohio earlier this week, where he said he did not want to take a position on a state issue. Mr. Romney said the confusion came from the fact that he is noncommittal on some of the other initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot.

As for Issue 2, he said, “I’m 110 percent behind Gov. Kasich.”

 

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