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Published: Saturday, 2/12/2005

Search continues for new Lucas County GOP chief

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

While Lucas County Democrats have fought bitterly over the chairmanship of their party organization during the last 18 months, Republicans are having trouble finding someone who will take their top post.

The hunt for a replacement for former Republican chief Bernadette Noe has grown cold in the week since Sally Perz, the interim chairman, informed top GOP officials last Saturday that she was not interested in taking over permanently.

Unlike Democrats, who publicly have warred over control of their party, Republicans are keeping their disagreements to themselves, sharing them only in private meetings. Doug Haynam, a member of Sylvania City Council who has acted as an intermediary between Ms. Perz and local elected Republicans who hold tremendous influence over who should replace Ms. Noe, said they couldn't agree on details about how the party should be run.

"A little give and take and a little infighting isn't so bad if it enhances the commitment and the interest of the rank and file in what you're doing," Mr. Haynam said.

"Whenever somebody backs away from something like this, I think there is an inclination to want to place blame and find some reason that is more exciting than just that Sally decided that she could better serve the party in another capacity," he said.

"Politicians like to spin webs anyway, so there is a tendency to create intrigue."

Mr. Haynam, a lawyer, also serves as chairman of the party's 31-member search committee. He said the group will convene in about three weeks to renew their search.

"After discussing the position with a wide array of leaders in our party, Sally Perz has decided that this is not the appropriate time for her to serve the Lucas County Republican Party as its chair," Mr. Haynam wrote in an e-mail to several party insiders last Saturday.

"As of this evening I have no candidates for the position of Chair and urge each of you to re-initiate your contacts within our Party to solicit candidates for the chair position."

Republican officeholders met with Ms. Perz a week ago Friday to discuss what they would like to see in a Perz chairmanship.

"Sally decided that she wanted to work on grass-roots issues, rather than some of the other issues that party chairmen have to deal with," Mr. Haynam said.

Ms. Perz said she is working to guarantee continuity of party operations.

"I am the interim chairman, and I can tell you we are in good shape," Ms. Perz said. "I am going to serve as the interim chairman until the search committee can complete its work. There is no real rush for this search committee. There is no real deadline they have to meet."

Ms. Perz said she is now working to organize a Lincoln Day Dinner that features all three Republican candidates for governor - Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, Attorney General James Petro, and state Auditor Betty Montgomery.

"I respect her decision [to decline the chairmanship] and will work with the search committee to recruit a good chairman for the party - someone who can help us continue to grow in Lucas County," said county Commissioner Maggie Thurber, one of the most senior Republican officeholders in the county.

"I'd like to see it continue on the same track we've been traveling," said Ms. Noe, who is poised to take a regional post representing the Ohio Republican Party to many counties in northwest Ohio.

"I think we're in great shape. We've come a long way. I'm hoping that we have a leadership team in place that will allow me to complement them as I work with the other surrounding counties," she said.

Two factions of the local Democratic Party have been fighting over control of party headquarters since the wing of the party long out of power, known as the "B team," tossed out the "A team" leadership last year.

They had been plotting their overthrow since the summer of 2003.

The June vote to bump Paula Ross and to install Sandy Isenberg as the chairman of the local Democratic Party has not put an end to the party's discord.

The factions continue to battle over appointments to open seats on various local public bodies.

Democrats control most countywide offices, the Toledo mayor's office, and most seats on Toledo council, while Republicans have established a solid beachhead in elected suburban offices around the county.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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