Bob Reichert says he's typically more kingmaker than king. Now he has a new moniker: rebuilder-in-chief.
Mr. Reichert, 60, a 28-year Ottawa Hills Village Council member and longtime backstage Republican operative, won a screening committee's endorsement this week to take the helm of the cash-deprived, scandal-swooning Lucas County Republican Party - all in full sanity, he insists.
"I don't think the party's in shambles by any means," Mr. Reichert said yesterday. "It's just, at this point, broke."
Republican leaders yesterday hailed Mr. Reichert's selection, calling his experience, contacts, and fund-raising prowess an antidote to the party's most disastrous year in decades.
"He is exactly what the doctor ordered," said Toledo Councilman George Sarantou, the GOP nominee for Lucas County commissioner. "He's willing to be a leader, and that's what we need."
Republicans have long sailed rough waters in Democrat-dominated Lucas County. But the GOP hit particularly jagged rocks last year, after The Blade revealed questions surrounding state investments in rare coin funds run by former party chairman Tom Noe.
A pair of grand juries later indicted Mr. Noe on felony charges including theft, money laundering, and fraud.
The county party has endured a 10-month search for a permanent chairman. A special prosecutor is investigating whether the party can waive $63,000 in loans from Mr. Noe, effectively hamstringing the party's finances. Party leaders have not scheduled their annual Lincoln Day dinner, a major fund-raiser.
Mr. Reichert was the longtime co-owner of Reichert Stamping, a family business that manufactured a variety of auto parts. He sold the business two years ago and now owns the Dorr Street Cafe and works as a property developer.
His political resume includes work on countless campaigns, including every Republican auditor's race for the last 28 years; at least $60,000 in campaign donations, including more than $6,000 to the county GOP, and decades of fund-raising for candidates and the party.
Party leaders tried to interest Mr. Reichert in the chairmanship early last year, after Bernadette Noe, Mr. Noe's wife, resigned the position, and again in the ensuing months, said former interim Chairman Doug Haynam.
"Bob has never been a real out-front kind of guy," Mr. Haynam said, "but he has worked on a ton of campaigns, and not just in the last five years."
Mr. Reichert said he's been turning down the chairmanship "for 25 years" - and that he accepted, this time, because it appeared the party could use his experience. He pledged to rebuild by assembling a crack leadership team and focusing on raising money.
Several Republican officials said they expect the party central committee to act quickly in approving Mr. Reichert's selection. His first task, said former party Treasurer Patrick Kriner, will be financial. "We've got to get some funds in the door" to help candidates in November, Mr. Kriner said.
Another Republican who campaigned for the chairmanship, party activist Jon Stainbrook, said he will support Mr. Reichert.
The local Democratic Party chairman, Jack Wilson, said he doesn't know Mr. Reichert - but does not, apparently, envy his new job. "As funny as [the Democratic Party] is," Mr. Wilson said, "at least we don't owe money to somebody."
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