Trump-approved: The rise of Cincinnati’s Jane Timken
COLUMBUS – At Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills High School, Jane Murphy’s classmates voted her “girl most likely to succeed.”
She certainly did, going on to Harvard, becoming a lawyer, county magistrate and vice chair of a county political party.
But it was a moment this past December in Cincinnati that really showed the Walnut Hills Class of 1985 was spot-on about Jane Murphy Timken. Newly elected President Donald Trump told Timken in a private meeting at the Downtown Queen City Club that she would be the Republican’s right-hand person in bellwether Ohio.
It set the wheels in motion for Timken to quickly go from a behind-the-scenes county party leader to one of America’s most powerful women in GOP politics. A month later, she led Trump’s charge to wrest control of the Ohio Republican Party away from Gov. John Kasich – making Timken arguably the most powerful person in a state where the GOP is dominant.
So who is Jane Timken?
The Enquirer interviewed family, friends, political leaders and Timken herself. There’s no question her rise in politics can be partly attributed to her marrying into one of Ohio’s most powerful and wealthy families. But the portrait that emerged also is of a person who’s established her own identity in politics – spending hours and hours performing thankless campaign grunt work for even the most obscure of local candidates.
Timken, 50, is the daughter of a University of Cincinnati professor who taught dispute resolution, a skill coming in handy as she works to unify a state party that changed directions with the change in the White House. A no-nonsense and fair leader, Timken learned the skills that took her to the top of Ohio’s GOP from strong-willed, loving parents while growing up in, ironically, one of Cincinnati’s most left-leaning neighborhoods.
So far, Timken has made one hell of an impression on a president who isn’t easy to please.
“The President would say, ‘Jane’s a winner,’ ” said Bob Paduchik, co-chairman of the Republican National Committee and the man who connected Timken and Trump. “I know he’s happy and proud she’s on our team.”
GROWING UP: ‘I don’t back down’
Timken grew up in Clifton, just down the street from UC. Her mom, Eileen, was Scottish. She originally came to America with a group of travel nurses, who made Boston their first stop. That’s where Eileen met John Murphy, an Ivy League-educated Bostonian who’s never been afraid to speak his mind. Murphy landed a job as a law professor at UC, making Cincinnati where the couple raised their three children – John, Jane and Deirdre.
The elder John Murphy taught dispute resolution at UC until he retired in 1999. He also taught it at home. In his thick New England dialect, Professor Murphy would teach his kids how to argue civilly.
“He would often pull me aside and coach me to say, ‘I disagree.’ And I’d have to repeat it, ‘I disagree,’ ” Timken recalled. “That’s become a large part of me. I will always speak my mind. I don’t back down.”
Eileen, who died two years ago, also liked a good – and fair – fight. Timken described her mom as a “tough cookie.”
“My grandma once told my mother, ‘You’d start a war in heaven,’ ” said Timken’s brother, John, 52, now a Chicago-based business executive. “She didn’t take a backseat to anyone.”
Timken doesn’t recall her parents being actively involved in politics, although they occasionally hosted fundraisers for judicial candidates. But John and Eileen paid close attention to politics. Mom and Dad were Reagan Democrats. Young Janey liked Reagan. Her siblings went left. Young John liked George McGovern and has stuck with the Democratic party. He has a photo on his Facebook page of him and Hillary Clinton.
With type-A parents and kids with differing political viewpoints, discussions were lively in the Murphy house. Those dispute resolution lessons paid off immediately.
“Janey cut her teeth arguing politics at the kitchen table,” her brother said. “My mother and father would constantly argue politics, but we learned not to lose our cool.”
As a nurse, Eileen also was very compassionate. Janey took after her mom in that way, her brother said. It really showed when the Murphy kids would hang out with their large group of friends from the neighborhood. They did everything together – from riding bikes to playing football.
“Janey always wanted to include everybody,” John recalled. “We had one girl in our neighborhood who was a little different. She loved Star Trek. She called herself ‘Spock.’ Janey always insisted we treated her fairly and included her in everything, even though some of us didn’t want her around.”
In high school, Timken was known as studious. At Walnut Hills, she graduated cum laude and was picked as an “Honor Usher,” a small group of seniors chosen by their teachers based on their academic performance and character.
She also played the bagpipes as a teenager. It was at the behest of her Scottish mother, who thought Jane could get a college music scholarship since few people played the bagpipes. Timken would practice in the basement, which unfortunately wasn’t soundproof.
“She’s a wonderful person,” brother John said, “but she was an awful bagpiper.”
RISE IN POLITICS: ‘A doer’
Despite failing at the bagpipes, Timken took the same path as her father and went to Harvard. She played rugby in college, further building her reputation as tough.
While interning for a Washington, D.C., law firm, Timken met her future husband, Tim Timken. He was working for Ohio GOP Congressman Bob McEwen while going to Georgetown University.
“We used to take the same 36 bus on our daily commute,” Jane said. “I use to scope him out. He would ignore me.”
Jane and Tim had mutual friends, and they later officially met at a party. She moved to Washington in 1989 to go to law school at American University. They got married in 1994 and settled back in Tim’s native Canton area, home of century-old TimkenSteel. Tim went to work for the family company, where he’s now CEO. Jane started her law career for a big Canton firm.
The Timkens are to Canton what the Lindners are to Cincinnati – rich, powerful, Republican. Hosting high-roller fundraisers and rubbing elbows with presidents is part of the family business. Tim’s uncle, William R. “Tim” Timken, was a U.S. ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush.
Politically, Jane mostly stayed in the background for her first 15 or 16 years as a Timken. Her role in politics changed in 2010. She decided to run for vice chair of the Stark County GOP, a decision that would set her on the path to where she is today.
“I’ll tell ya, a lot of it had to do with Obamacare passing,” Timken said, referring to her decision to get more involved. “It was a situation where it was rammed down the public’s throat. It was a major overhaul to our economy.”
She saw Obamacare from a few angles – from being part of a family business and from working on medical malpractice cases earlier in her career. Timken did not like the Affordable Care Act.
“I wanted to do something about our political situation and not just donate and host fundraisers,” Timken said. “I actually wanted to recruit candidates and do more of the grassroots work, which I love. I love to go door-to-door. I’ll make phone calls for candidates. It’s good work. I love what I do.”
Timken went right to work going door-to-door and making phone calls for candidates, almost immediately impressing Republican power players. Paduchik was among them. He got to know Timken while managing Rob Portman’s Senate campaign in 2010.
“I saw she had a real appreciation and understanding for the ground game in Ohio,” Paduchik said. “She understands that you grow the party from the county level.”
Timken worked with candidates who ran for offices ranging for township trustee to the local city council to president. For six years, Timken made phone calls. She organized volunteers. She passed out yard signs. She still hosted fundraisers. Word about Timken’s leadership style spread fast across the state.
“It’s more customary for the folks who write the big checks not to be working down at the campaign headquarters,” Columbiana County GOP leader Dave Johnson said. “She built a reputation of not being afraid to get her hands dirty … of being a doer rather than a delegator.”
Added Cuyahoga County GOP Chairman Rob Frost: “In this political era, particularly the last four years, I have seen more and more donors working at every level. The difference with Jane Timken is she’s been doing that all along. I really respect that.”
TRUMP TAKEOVER: Closing deal in Queen City
Jane and Tim Timken were all-in on Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer. In early August, the Timkens hosted one of Trump’s first major post-convention fundraisers. The $25,000-per-plate event at a country club outside Canton brought in nearly $1.2 million, Columbiana County’s Johnson said.
At the event, Timken said, Trump and his team “wanted to make sure there was a good relationship between him and the Ohio Republican Party.”
That wasn’t happening with Kasich-backed Chairman Matt Borges, who, like the governor, refused to publicly support Trump until the 11th hour of the race. The Trump-Kasich feud was so deep that Kasich – who lost the Republican presidential primary to Trump – ultimately refused to endorse or vote for him in November. After Trump decisively won Ohio, some county party leaders began pushing for a change in state party leadership.
Johnson was among a handful of leaders who recommended Timken to Paduchik, who led Trump’s campaign in Ohio. Around Thanksgiving, Paduchik asked Timken to run. A week later, she showed up at Trump’s private fundraiser with Cincinnati’s power players at the Queen City Club. She worked the room to drum up support for her campaign.
Timken and Paduchik got a few minutes alone with Trump, just before he went down the street to begin his victory tour at U.S. Bank Arena on Dec. 1. Timken asked Trump for his support and got it – and more.
A day before the state central committee was to vote Jan. 6 on the party chair, Trump himself made phone calls to committee members stumping for Timken.
“It says a lot about Jane that the president of the United States took time to make calls to support her,” Paduchik said. “I don’t know of any other state where he was engaged in this way.”
But the relationship between Kasich and Timken remains chilly. It’s believed Kasich and Timken have met at least twice since she took over as party leader. Timken said they talked at an Ohio party in Washington during Trump’s inauguration weekend.
“He’s fine,” Timken said of Kasich. “He’s good. Gov. Kasich is doing his thing as governor. I’ve tried to make it public that I’m very supportive of him. As far as I know, there’s no real issue. I’d be happy to help Gov. Kasich in any way I can.”
A political spokesman for Kasich declined to comment.
Back at the Ohio Republican Party headquarters in Columbus, Timken has separate photos of Trump and Kasich sitting on shelves next to her office door. It’s as if Trump and Kasich are both welcoming visitors into Timken’s office.
“I’m the chairman for all those people,” she said, pointing to the photos.
Enquirer Columbus bureau chief Chrissie Thompson contributed.
ABOUT JANE TIMKEN
Hometown: Cincinnati (Clifton)
Resides: Jackson Township (near Canton)
Family: Husband, Tim; son, Henry, 18; daughter, Emma, 16
Salary: Currently not taking one.
Education: Walnut Hills High School; psychology degree from Harvard; law degree from American University
Career: Timken began her legal career with Canton-based Black McCuskey, where she specialized in civil litigation, employment law, workers’ compensation and medical malpractice defense. She served as a magistrate and law clerk to the Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge Sara Lioi. Timken also practiced at Soles Law Offices, handling civil matters, business and construction-related disputes.
Hobbies: Working out, playing tennis, skiing, cooking, reading