The feud in the Lucas County Republican Party took a back seat to having a political good time last night as local Republicans gathered to raise money and hear insights from one of the party's leading strategists.
Karl Rove, the guest speaker for the party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner at Gladieux Meadows in South Toledo, touched on the power struggle tearing at the seams of the local GOP. He told fellow Republicans to settle their fight and relink arms quickly.
Mr. Rove guided President George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 elections and is now a frequent guest on Fox News. He also said he still does some politics "below the radar."
"It's not up to me to settle your controversy. It's up to you. I've had a growing feeling that the 2010 election is one of the most important in our lifetime," he said. "When you finish your controversy, you have a moral duty to unify and work together."
The event appeared to be a sell-out, with 359 people in attendance at the $75-per-ticket dinner, according to party Chairman Jon Stainbrook. Dozens paid extra to line up and have their photograph taken with Mr. Rove.
Mr. Rove circulated among the tables for about 20 minutes, shaking hands and chatting.
Attendee Darlene Johnson, of Toledo, a retired teacher, told Mr. Rove she enjoys watching him on TV.
Mr. Rove thanked her, saying, "I need the eyeballs. My contract is up next month, so keep watching."
Karl Rove, left, touched on the power struggle between party chairman Jon Stainbrook, center, and Toledo lawyer Jeff Simpson that's tearing at the seams of the local Republican party.
"I think he's a straight shooter. Very bright," Ms. Johnson said.
Mr. Stainbrook said he asked Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rob Portman to help him get Mr. Rove for this year's event, and Mr. Portman came through.
Mr. Stainbrook is the target of a leadership challenge from Toledo lawyer Jeff Simpson that is now the subject of a lawsuit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. Mr. Simpson and his supporters were at the event, but there were no disturbances.
"Everybody was well-behaved," observed lawyer Mark Berling.
Constantine Stamos, an unsuccessful Toledo City Council candidate last year, remarked before the event, "I just hope we'll put our differences aside and enjoy the evening. Hopefully there'll be no gunplay."
Among the guests was late-arriver Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, a registered Democrat who was elected last year as an independent.
"I'm an independent. I talk to both sides," Mr. Bell said last night. He participated in a fund-raiser for Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland's re-election effort Jan. 5 with former President Bill Clinton.
Also present last night was former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, a candidate for the GOP nomination for Ohio attorney general, a post now held by Democrat Richard Cordray. Mr. Rove suggested Mr. DeWine run for U.S. attorney general after the 2012 presidential election.
Mr. Rove pitched his book, Courage and Consequence, due out March 9, promising, "it's going to make a lot of people angry," adding that he was referring to Democratic politicians.
He said the model for the elections in 2010, in which Ohio has a U.S. Senate seat and the governorship up for election, was Republican Scott Brown's upset campaign for a vacant U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts on Tuesday.
He noted Mr. Brown's hard-working phone call center compared with that of his opponent, Democrat Martha Coakley.
And he cited Mr. Brown's blunt promise to "kill" health-care reform if he got to Congress, as well as Mr. Brown's proposed solutions, such as malpractice lawsuit reform and allowing states to chart their own courses.
"We've got to be for something," Mr. Rove said.
He blasted President Obama as having run as a centrist but who has spent wildly on "liberal ideas that have been kept in a drawer for 20 years."
He attacked the $787 billion stimulus, saying most of it hasn't been spent, and that most of the jobs created were in the government sector.
"This has been an unmitigated disaster," Mr. Rove said.
He attacked the health-care bills that have passed the House and the Senate as dependent upon a series of special deals, including exempting union health plans from the tax on so-called Cadillac health plans.
"How fair is that? How blatantly political is that? And yet the President expects us to swallow it," Mr. Rove told the appreciative crowd.
He said he approved of Mr. Obama's handling so far of Iraq and Afghanistan, but quickly went back to attacking the present administration for its allowing alleged 911 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed to have a trial in the United States.
A spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which will campaign for a Democrat for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat in the November election, criticized Mr. Portman's absence.
Deirdre Murphy said Mr. Portman was avoiding Mr. Rove because that would remind voters of his role as budget director under Mr. Bush, which she said caused the nation's current economic problems.
"He can run but he can't hide from his role of being the architect of the failed Bush policies," Ms. Murphy said.
Jessica Towhey, a spokesman for Mr. Portman, responded, "It's amazing the lengths Democrats will go to change the subject from the shellacking they took on Tuesday in Massachusetts, which was a clear repudiation of their budget-busting, tax-and-spend agenda and job-killing policies."
Contact Tom Troy at: