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Paulding County farmer voices Kasich radio ad

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The farmer featured in radio ads for Gov. John Kasich airing across rural Ohio is not just a small-business man.

Paulding County soybean farmer Terry McClure also sits on the board of Nationwide, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, and formerly chaired the boards of agribusiness specialty lines affiliated with the company that generated close to $1 billion a year in premiums.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald’s campaign says McClure’s extensive business interests aren’t those of the average Ohioan portrayed in the ad.

“It’s not that he’s not a farmer. I’m sure he is a farmer,” said Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for the FitzGerald campaign. “But it’s another example of how disconnected Gov. Kasich is that he sees this as a typical example of an everyday Ohioan. It’s another example of how out of touch he is.”

According to an online biography, McClure is president of McClure Farms LLC, a producer of corn, soybeans and wheat, and maintains swine operations. A former president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, he was elected to the board of Nationwide – which has a history of partnering with farmers – in 2004.

McClure chaired the boards of the Farmland Mutual Insurance and Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance companies from 2006 to 2009. The latter recently marked $1 billion in annual premium collections. Records show he’s donated about $7,000 to Republican candidates in recent years.

Kasich’s campaign defends selecting McClure for the ads, which focus on his support for the 2011 repeal of Ohio’s estate tax. McClure says in the ad that the move allowed farmers to invest more in their businesses and churches and keep their family farms.

“It’s unbelievable that Ed FitzGerald and his allies are so opposed to tax cuts for Ohioans that they’d stoop to attacking a 5th-generation farmer from one of Ohio’s smallest counties who has spent his life maintaining and growing his family’s farm,” said Connie Wehrkamp, the campaign’s spokeswoman. “Getting rid of the death tax is something that’s been talked about since the 1970s and Governor Kasich delivered.”

A message was left for McClure on Friday at the Ohio Soybean Council, of which he is a board member.

Democrats criticized the estate tax’s repeal as benefiting the very wealthy at the expense of budget-strapped cities that relied on the tax to fund certain critical services, such as salt trucks. FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive in Cleveland, has made Kasich’s cuts to the state local government fund a key campaign issue.

Roger Geiger, executive director of National Federation of Independent Business/Ohio, which represents small businesses, took issue with Democrats’ estate tax argument.

“The fact that local governments were balancing their budgets on the hope that business owners, farmers and others in their community would die during a given budget cycle was irresponsible fiscal policy at best,” he said.

Huron County Commissioner Tom Dunlap said he was offended by such a suggestion.

“To say that local government officials were hoping members of their community would die is disgusting, inflammatory rhetoric meant to distract from the fact that Governor Kasich’s funding cuts are responsible for police, firefighters and teachers losing their jobs,” he said.

The Kasich campaign identified other farmers who shared McClure’s views on the estate tax, including Putnam County turkey farmer Bernie Kahle. Kahle said the tax would have cost the next generation at his six-person operation $700,000, which would “surely force” its dissolution.