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GOP chairmanship is Stainbrook s goal

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A February-to-forget is ending for Lucas County Republicans, and they ll enter March with at least one new candidate grass-roots organizer Jon Stainbrook to chair the party permanently.

The month ended on a final sour note, with elections officials saying yesterday that Republicans will not have a candidate on their primary ballot to replace Common Pleas Judge Jack Zouhary, who is expected to win confirmation soon for a federal judgeship a problem party leaders blamed on Auditor Larry Kaczala, who reversed his decision to run for the seat less than 24 hours before the candidate filing deadline.

Attorney Michael Goulding of Toledo filed for the judgeship after Mr. Kaczala decided to seek re-election instead. But Mr. Goulding s last-minute signature gatherers failed to sign two petitions, invalidating those signatures and leaving him short of the filing requirement.

Mr. Goulding could not be reached for comment. The interim Lucas County GOP chairman, Dennis Lange, said Mr. Goulding would mount a write-in campaign.

The news capped a month that saw former party chairman Tom Noe indicted on 53 felony counts, including grand theft and money laundering, over allegations he stole millions of dollars state officials invested in his rare coin fund. County Commissioner Maggie Thurber announced she wouldn t seek re-election on the eve of the filing deadline, leaving Republicans scrambling to fill their slate and suddenly facing a primary in the commissioner s race.

The party has gone months without a permanent chairman, which some Republicans blamed for the filing-day chaos. Mr. Lange said party leaders are working constantly to find one.

Throwing his name into consideration yesterday was Mr. Stainbrook, a musician, media consultant, student, and longtime GOP political activist from Toledo.

Mr. Stainbrook, who has written free-lance entertainment stories for The Blade, worked on campaigns for Bob Dole, Bob Taft, Mike DeWine, George Voinovich, and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. He ran three times for Toledo City Council, all unsuccessfully. In 1998, while working as a deputy auditor, he challenged Mr. Kaczala in a Republican primary and lost.

Mr. Stainbrook has won praise for phone banking and is known in Republican circles for commanding legions of volunteers. He said yesterday he wanted to boost GOP fund-raising, recruit young party workers, and return the local party to its populist roots.

I d love to do it, and I could do it, Mr. Stainbrook said. I ve proven I can do it over the years The party actually needs a makeover, is what it is.

Mr. Stainbrook considered a run for county auditor this year, but pulled back when Mr. Kaczala announced his re-election plans.

His candidacy for party chairman drew mixed reviews from prominent Republicans. Mr. Lange chuckled after hearing about it, then declared Mr. Stainbrook s plans a very interesting concept. Mr. Kaczala said he held nothing against Mr. Stainbrook for running against him, but predicted other Republicans might.

I don t think Jon would have credibility that one would need to be party chairman, he said. The person who s chairman has to pretty much get along with anybody I m not sure people would return his phone calls.

Rob Ludeman, the president of Toledo City Council, called Mr. Stainbrook a good recruiter of people, adding: He s a good fellow, and I d like to hear what he has to say down the road.

Also praising Mr. Stainbrook was his friend Joe Kidd, a former party executive director under Mr. Noe. Jon would be a gift to the Republican Party, Mr. Kidd said. I would only question why anyone would want that job.

Contact Jim Tankersley at: jtankersley@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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