LUCAS County voters deserve an effective, competitive two-party political system. That's why the protracted war for control of the county Republican organization affects many people other than those who are directly involved in the power struggle - and why it needs to be resolved before this year's election cycle proceeds much further.
For those who have not followed each battle of the conflict since it began last December, two factions are grappling to run the local party. One is headed by Jon Stainbrook, the party's chairman since 2008; the other by challenger Jeff Simpson, a Toledo lawyer who says he has replaced Mr. Stainbrook.
The dispute has expanded to include not only the local party's elected central committee and its executive committee, but also the state GOP, the county Elections Board and Prosecutor's Office, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, various local, state, and federal courts - and officials of the Toledo Fire Department, who Mr. Stainbrook suggests were complicit in the raucous Dec. 21 party meeting at which he was or was not ousted as chairman, depending on whom you believe.
Mr. Stainbrook has been an effective agent of change. He has worked to clean up the mess the party's discredited old guard left behind and to raise money for, and attract new blood to, the local party. It's hard to see why county Republicans would want to return to the old days.
The state party has said its central committee must resolve the Stainbrook-Simpson smackdown - its treasurer is a key ally of Mr. Simpson - but has made no move to achieve that outcome. The best course would be for state party leaders to enable local Republicans to settle the dispute themselves, in a genuinely fair and legitimate election.
If party officials merely seek an agent in Lucas County to dole out partisan appointments, instead of a leader who wants to recruit talented candidates and win elections, let them say so. In any event, they should not leave Mr. Stainbrook, and by extension the local party, twisting in the wind.
The dispute may yet have a salutary effect, if resolution of a related controversy over the membership of the county elections board were to help clean out the abundant deadwood that clogs the local election apparatus, which too often places the interests of hacks in both parties ahead of those of voters.
Meanwhile, though, the conflict is affecting county Republicans' ability to field credible candidates in this May's primary and the November general election. Some non-Republicans might take pleasure in the spectacle of the local GOP wrecking itself through internecine warfare, but that's shortsighted.
A strong, united, functioning Republican Party in Lucas County is in the interest of all voters who seek a genuine choice at the ballot box, as well as of the party itself. It's curious that so many party leaders seem unable or unwilling to act on that reality.
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