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Published: Sunday, 1/10/2010

Lucas County GOP faction makes voting board choice

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jon Stainbrook, left, speaks with Michael Griswold after last night's meeting of the Lucas County Republican Party executive committee that backs Mr. Stainbrook. Leadership of the party remains under dispute. Jon Stainbrook, left, speaks with Michael Griswold after last night's meeting of the Lucas County Republican Party executive committee that backs Mr. Stainbrook. Leadership of the party remains under dispute.
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The executive committee of the Jon Stainbrook-led Lucas County Republican Party last night nominated Mr. Stainbrook to serve on the Lucas County Board of Elections.

"Everybody knows how far we've come. Everybody knows how hard we have fought," Mr. Stainbrook, the incumbent chairman, said at the end of the mostly placid and short - under 13 minutes - meeting at party headquarters.

"I'm proud of you guys," Mr. Stainbrook told the 63 executive committee members in attendance. "It means a lot to me that I have friends like you, to come out here and support me. Truly, thank you."

The committee has 80 members, Mr. Stainbrook said.

The name of Mr. Stainbrook, party chairman since June, 2008, will be forwarded to the Ohio Secretary of State, who will make the appointment. The position is currently held by Lynn Olman, a former state representative.

The position on the Board of Elections pays $17,261 and provides health and pension benefits. Mr. Olman has said he's not on the elections board for the benefits or the pay.

The nomination last night of Michael Griswold, a longtime committee member, died for lack of a second.

So ended yesterday's chapter in the saga of warring factions of the Lucas County Republican Party.

As executive committee members last night stepped into 10 South Superior St., they were asked to sign a form saying they were members of the party under Mr. Stainbrook's leadership.

"We want to know which people belong to the Lucas County Republican Party, and which people belong to the fantasy party," said attorney Anthony DeGidio, who represents the party under Mr. Stainbrook.

On Thursday, the rival group led by Jeff Simpson, who claimed he was elected executive chairman Dec. 21, nominated David Dmytryka of Toledo to replace Mr. Olman, whose term ends Feb. 28.

Mr. Stainbrook long has tried to remove Mr. Olman and Republican Patrick Kriner from the elections board as vestiges of the previous GOP leadership.

"The fact that [the rival group] nominated somebody else was a victory for us," Mr. Stainbrook said after the meeting. "So Lynn Olman will be off the Lucas County Board of Elections."

Mr. Simpson wouldn't comment on last night's meeting.

"I'm concerned about the [Republican] candidates," Mr. Simpson said. "It seems Mr. Stainbrook is concerned about Mr. Stainbrook. This is not about retribution or vindictiveness. The central committee has lost faith in Jon Stainbrook and [Central Committee Chairman] Meghan Gallagher. They do not feel either of those people can lead this party or provide the support for candidates."

Which nominee replaces Mr. Olman may rest with whether, before then, the local GOP is cast in the image of Mr. Stainbrook or Mr. Simpson.

At the December meeting, a group of Republicans opposed to Mr. Stainbrook attempted to take over the local party's central committee at a meeting Dec. 21 and vote him out. That group claims it elected Mr. Simpson executive committee chairman, replacing Mr. Stainbrook, and Paul Hoag as central committee chairman, replacing Ms. Gallagher.

Mr. Stainbrook said the vote was not legal and should not be recognized. He and his supporters contend the Simpson contingent did not put its motion on the floor legally. Members of Mr. Simpson's group contend they properly elected a temporary chairman and then ran the meeting without Ms. Gallagher's oversight.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary denied a temporary restraining order sought by Mr. Stainbrook to block the Board of Elections from certifying Mr. Simpson as a contender for executive chairman and Mr. Hoag as a contender for central committee chairman.

Mr. Stainbrook said the battle is far from over and vowed to pursue other legal options.

The judge's action allows Mr. Simpson and Mr. Hoag to put their claims before the Board of Elections, which meets Tuesday, and the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee.

Judge Zouhary ruled that state law has a process for the political parties to resolve the dispute and there was no reason not to allow that to occur.

Under the law, when a dispute arises over control of a political party, the competing groups seek certification from the county Board of Elections. The elections board forwards the rival lists of committee members and officers to, in this case, the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee.

The two Republicans on the Board of Elections, Mr. Olman and Mr. Kriner, support Mr. Simpson and Mr. Hoag openly.

All four of the members of the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee from Lucas County participated in a meeting Thursday night at which members of Mr. Simpson and Mr. Hoag's executive committee were selected. And Mr. Hoag is a state central committee member and state party treasurer.

On Friday, Mr. Stainbrook called on Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates to investigate Mr. Olman and Mr. Kriner and Jeremy Demagall, deputy director of the Board of Elections, for setting a meeting of the board based on sham documents. Their actions could be construed as criminal, he said.

The prosecutor's office said Thursday the initial filing from the Simpson/Hoag group lacked a secretary's signature and was invalid. Since then, the Simpson/Hoag group has elected a secretary and is expected to file updated documents tomorrow in preparation for the election board's meeting Tuesday.

Mr. Demagall has said he did not consider the documents a sham when they were filed. Mr. Olman said the allegation was "baseless."

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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