By Randy Ludlow

The office of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and her own appointment calendar, dispute Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor's assertion that she has not talked to the governor in more than a year.

Amid her quest to distance herself from Kasich -- and his endorsement -- as she campaigns as a Trump conservative for the Republican nomination for governor, Taylor says she has had little to do with her boss, a frequent Trump critic.

Information about Taylor's appointments obtained by The Dispatch from the her office shows at least eight meetings between Kasich and Taylor in the first half of last year, although they apparently have not met in more than six months.

Asked about Taylor's claim she has not talked with Kasich in more than a year, governor's office spokesman Jon Keeling said, "Everyone's recollection here is otherwise."

Chris Schrimpf, political spokesman for Kasich, said, "They have talked many times in the past year." Kasich continues to support Taylor, he said, although the governor has yet to openly campaign for or with her.

In an appeal to party conservatives who back President Donald Trump, Taylor has stressed her policy disagreements with Kasich, including objecting to the governor's expansion of Medicaid health care coverage primarily for the working poor.

Taylor campaign spokesman Michael Duchesne confirmed that Taylor told the Clermont County Republican Central Committee on Jan. 17 that she had not talked to Kasich in more than a year. Taylor addressed the county party while seeking -- and winning -- its gubernatorial endorsement over Attorney General Mike DeWine.

In addition to her role as lieutenant governor, Taylor was a member of the Kasich cabinet as director of the Ohio Department of Insurance until March 31, when she resigned to pursue her gubernatorial aspirations.

Taylor and Kasich met at least eight times during the first half of 2017, including a one-on-one meeting Jan. 30, cabinet meetings Jan. 31, March 24 and April 21, and budget meetings March 3 and 8, according to information from Taylor's office. The Dispatch previously had submitted a public records request for Taylor's appointment calendar.

The pair also attended the swearing-in of Taylor's successor as insurance director, Jillian Froment, on April 6 and attended a joint cabinet and budget meeting June 8 at the governor's residence, the records show. While it does not signal they necessarily talked, Kasich also introduced Taylor at his April 5 State of the State address in Sandusky.

Duchesne, meanwhile, denied a Cincinnati Enquirer report quoting two GOP county committee members as saying Taylor announced that Kasich had endorsed DeWine for governor when, in fact, the governor endorsed Taylor many months ago.

The remarks Taylor made were similar to those she made last week in a recorded interview with The Dispatch, but she did not state that Kasich had endorsed DeWine, he said.

"I have been inside this administration, but my record is pretty clear ... I challenge the status quo from inside the administration," Taylor told The Dispatch last week.

The lieutenant governor did not answer when asked if Kasich would campaign on her behalf, saying, "The fact is a lot of the political team that was close to the governor and what I call the Columbus establishment is firmly behind the DeWine-Husted ticket. That's a statement of fact."

Dave Luketic, the manager of DeWine's campaign, directed the win of the Kasich-Taylor ticket in 2014 and also helped run a super-PAC supporting Kasich's failed 2016 bid for the GOP presidential nomination.

Clermont County GOP Central Committee Member Greg Simpson, a DeWine supporter, told The Dispatch that Taylor began talking about Kasich when she was asked about her "separation" from him.

"She said she hadn't talked to him (Kasich) in more than a year ... she said it was a 'well-known fact' that that Kasich had endorsed DeWine," said Simpson, who also serves on the state GOP central committee.

Secretary of State Jon Husted, DeWine's running mate who was representing the ticket at the meeting, heard of Taylor's remarks and later entered the meeting room holding aloft his cell phone, which displayed a newspaper article about Kasich's endorsement of Taylor, Simpson said.

When asked about the Clermont County GOP meeting and endorsement, Duchesne said in a statement: "This is what marginalization looks like. The old-guard, good old boy establishment is panicking now that the people are speaking. Last week, Clermont County, the only county that supported Donald Trump in the Presidential primary, endorsed Mary Taylor by a 2-1 margin.

Former secretary of state and 2006 gubernatorial loser "Ken Blackwell's endorsement was only more gas on the fire and it's making Mike DeWine nervous. Mary Taylor has embraced President Trump's policies and Mike DeWine has been largely silent. Connect the dots. The establishment is scared."

With the departure of Trump ally U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, for the Senate race, Taylor is attempting to claim the party's conservative Trump base as her own. Much of that base has lost any affection it had for the Ohio governor, who has been outspoken against Trump.

(c)2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)