Jon Stainbrook says his drive for the chairmanship of the Lucas County Republican Party is picking up steam. GOP critics say he's misleading voters in the May 2 primary.
The party's search for a permanent chairman is stretching into its 10th month. Interim Chairman Dennis Lange said five candidates have shown a serious interest in the job.
Mr. Stainbrook - a musician, writer, and party activist - is the only candidate to announce his bid publicly. He's also running for a seat on the state Republican central committee.
Three other Republicans are also seeking the central committee position: William Jennings, John Birmingham, and incumbent Dave Schulz. The county party has not endorsed in the race; the state party endorsed Mr. Schulz.
The Grass Roots Republican Party Coalition, founded by former Toledo mayoral candidate Paula Pennypacker, has endorsed Mr. Stainbrook, who says he helped rebuild the group's membership recently.
Mr. Stainbrook touts that endorsement in a postcard he sent to Republicans who requested absentee ballots. At the top, the card reads: "Endorsed Republican Candidate."
Mr. Schulz is running on an ethics-themed platform that includes a call to remove members of the county party's executive committee who have links to former chairman Tom Noe, who has been indicted on theft and racketeering charges by a Lucas County grand jury, and campaign money laundering charges by a federal grand jury.
Last week, Mr. Schulz sent Mr. Stainbrook a letter calling Mr. Stainbrook's absentee postcard misleading and declaring himself the only endorsed candidate in the race.
Mr. Stainbrook "really makes things up out of whole cloth," Mr. Schulz said in an interview. "He exaggerates."
Mr. Stainbrook said the endorsement refers to the Grass Roots committee, whose name appears farther down the card, and that he is "absolutely not" misleading voters. He criticized Mr. Schulz for having publicly questioned President Bush's "moral currency" over Mr. Bush's support for a federal gay marriage ban.
Mr. Stainbrook also criticized an ad that Mr. Schulz used in his unsuccessful Toledo City Council campaign last year. The ad showed Mr. Schulz with a female supporter and her child and included a caption with the woman's name.
In February, 2004, Mr. Schulz, a spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans of Northwest Ohio, a gay and Lesbian group, criticized Gov. Bob Taft for signing the law which bans same-sex marriages in Ohio.
"Who's being deceiving?" Mr. Stainbrook said yesterday about Mr. Schulz.
A state Republican Party spokesman, John McClelland, said the party is unlikely to take any action against Mr. Stainbrook. "It's not illegal to claim he's an endorsed candidate," Mr. McClelland said. "But if he's trying to claim he's endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party, it's misleading."
The dispute comes as Mr. Stainbrook is trying to sway party leaders to support his chairmanship bid.
Mr. Stainbrook is touting a letter from the county elections board thanking him for pledging to recruit 47 volunteers to run the May 2 election. He plans to give the party's interim chairman petitions with more than 400 signatures in support of his candidacy this week.
Half the signatures are from Republicans, Mr. Stainbrook said, and half are from independent voters he said would vote GOP for the right candidates.
"I just want to reinforce with the regulars of the [central committee]," Mr. Stainbrook said, "that I have the support of many voters that I would bring to the table if they will stand behind me as chairman."
He also has the support of Ms. Pennypacker, who made a career out of bucking local GOP bosses. "He could breathe some fresh air into a party that's all but defunct in Lucas County and has been for some time," said Ms. Pennypacker, who now lives in Arizona.
Contact Jim Tankersley at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6134.