ONE group remains curiously absent as rival factions fight over the dubious prize of running the Lucas County Republican Party. State GOP officials have shown remarkably little leadership, preferring to allow local party members to squabble even as the May primary approaches. The question is: Why?
State law seems clear: When leadership of a county apparatus is contested, the state central committee decides between the competing factions. But the Ohio Republican Party, while acknowledging that responsibility, has failed to set a date for the state committee to meet.
At issue is whether a Dec. 21 attempt to replace county party chairman Jon Stainbrook with Toledo lawyer Jeff Simpson was valid. Neither the Lucas County Board of Elections nor the state's chief elections official, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, has taken sides, as is appropriate. Instead, the conflict has been fought in the courts, all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which may not rule until late April.
By that time, the May 4 primary, at which both Republican and Democratic voters across the state will choose central committee members, will be just around the corner. That will make whatever decision the high court comes to largely irrelevant.
State GOP officials have little love for Mr. Stainbrook. They prefer a compliant, if bland and ineffective, county organization to Mr. Stainbrook's ability to motivate volunteers, recruit candidates, and wage campaigns. But Mr. Stainbrook's legal position is strong. Perhaps they fear that if they act on their secret desire to swat the gadfly, not even a Republican Supreme Court will be able to give them cover.
Whatever the case, the leadership battle has hurt the ability of the county Republican Party to field candidates for the May primary and the November general election. That's bad for democracy.
If state GOP leaders wanted an active Lucas County Republican Party, they'd back Mr. Stainbrook. Their silence is a revelation.
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