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Published: Friday, 6/11/2010

GOP winner vows to move party forward despite split

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Jon Stainbrook celebrates his election as Lucas County GOP chairman Wednesday night. At right is ally Meghan Gallagher, who was elected chairman of the county central committee. Jon Stainbrook celebrates his election as Lucas County GOP chairman Wednesday night. At right is ally Meghan Gallagher, who was elected chairman of the county central committee.
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Lucas County's Republican Party emerged from a rambunctious five-hour organizational meeting Wednesday promising to put a fractious past behind it.

But the sore spots remained, including from the newly re-elected chairman, Jon Stainbrook, who said his opponents brought scripts to the meeting with the intent of causing delays.

Mr. Stainbrook, who won his bitterly contested re-election on a voice vote at midnight in the Erie Street Market, said yesterday he intends to work with every Republican who's willing to work with him to campaign for GOP candidates against Democrats.

“Every Republican in Lucas County and statewide that's interested in working with us in Lucas County to get Republicans elected and have Republican victories is my kind of Republican and I look forward to working with them,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

Mr. Stainbrook, 46, defeated the so-called “old guard” of the party two years ago with an army of supporters drawn largely from his friends from years as a professional musician, including many people living in city precincts that have not typically been represented in the GOP's county central committee.

Many of those supporters have stayed with him, as has a rivalry with more traditional Republicans from GOP strongholds such as Sylvania Township, Maumee, and Ottawa Hills.

The Wednesday night meeting was of the party's 322-member central committee, which was elected May 4 and whose job it is to elect officers every two years.

It was clear going into the meeting that Mr. Stainbrook's allies had won more seats on the central committee than had his opponent, Jeff Simpson.

The vote that may have best captured the true strength of each side was the tally for central committee chairman.

Meghan Gallagher, Mr. Stainbrook's close associate and ally, defeated Paul Hoag, Mr. Simpson's ally, by 147-111.

The meeting capped a months-long period of internal strife in the party that was so bitter and complicated that the state Republican chairman, Kevin DeWine, was authorized by the state GOP central committee to chair the meeting to maintain order and civility.

Mr. Stainbrook blamed the length of the meeting on Mr. Simpson and one of his operatives, Matthew Bartow, saying they provided scripts to their allies on the central committee with the hope of delaying the meeting and, hopefully, tiring out Mr. Stainbrook's supporters and getting them to leave before the final vote.

“They wanted to delay the meeting. They broke out all these scripts that Bartow and Simpson had written and then they started this whole tactic of keeping everybody there,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

“That's what it was all about. They knew it was over.”

Mr. Stainbrook's side also did its part to push the meeting late into the night. Ms. Gallagher made a motion to change the rules calling for a secret paper ballot and to employ a roll call vote instead to elect the officers. That move set off more than an hour of parliamentary jockeying.

“It was not a stall tactic in any way, shape, or form,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

He said many of his supporters had previously had a bad experience with the Lucas County Board of Elections when their votes disappeared, and so they didn't trust the vote-counting process.

Jason Mauk, executive director of the Ohio Republican Party, said the Stainbrook faction made clear they were going to challenge the secret ballot rule before the meeting started. He said the start of the meeting, set for 7 p.m., was delayed 45 minutes largely for conferences among the parliamentarians and lawyers over how to address the demand for the rules change.

“Both sides wanted some additional assurance that the vote count was accurate and neither side seemed to have much faith in the voice vote process,” Mr. Mauk said.

“That ultimately prolonged the meeting much longer than it needed to be.”

He said second-guessing the meeting would not be helpful.

“The Lucas County Republican Party has elected new leadership, and it's time for all of the members of that organization to come together in a unified fashion,” Mr. Mauk said. “That's what we have asked both sides of the dispute to do, and frankly both sides have indicated a willingness to do that.”

In the end, Mr. Stainbrook and Ms. Gallagher dropped their opposition and allowed the secret ballot to be used.

Although the meeting was run by Mr. DeWine, who brought more than 15 people with him to help keep order, along with respected Columbus election law attorney Don Brey to serve as parliamentarian, Mr. Stainbrook hired two parliamentarians to advise him and Ms. Gallagher.

One was from Columbus and one was from Cleveland.

“We interviewed 27 parliamentarians to come up with these two, and the reason we had two was, what if one didn't make it? The both of them were there. They worked in tandem with Meghan Gallagher to make sure things were done in compliance with Robert's Rules of Order and the bylaws of the party,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

Paid the bill

He said he paid the bill but will seek reimbursement from the party.

Tom Morgan, a member of the central committee from Sylvania and a supporter of Mr. Stainbrook, said the tactics of Stainbrook opponents told him the intraparty dispute may go underground through the November election, but isn't going to go away.

“Unfortunately it's as divisive, if not more so. Hopefully we'll see a handful who are mature enough to get over the politics and the infighting of the last six months,” Mr. Morgan said. “After observing them last night, there's just too many people that will not do it.”

Doug Haynam, a Sylvania city councilman who has provided legal support to Mr. Simpson and was a key figure opposing Mr. Stainbrook two years ago, claimed he is ready to end the war, but wanted to know if Mr. Stainbrook is as well.

Meeting was ‘fair'

“As cumbersome and difficult as the meeting was I think the meeting we ended up with was fair, it got the result of who ended up on the central committee, and I agree wholeheartedly that hopefully the emphasis going forward will be on Democrats,” Mr. Haynam said.

He alleged that Mr. Stainbrook has, in the past, seemed to attack fellow Republicans more than Democrats.

He accused Mr. Stainbrook of backing a primary candidate, Jeff Jones, against incumbent Republican state Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) in the recent primary for Ms. Sears' state House seat.

“The problem with Jon is he attacks Republicans much more frequently than he does Democrats,” Mr. Haynam said. “There's a shockingly small number of attacks on liberal Democrats and the policies we're supposed to step up and defeat.”

Ms. Sears, in an interview just before the vote, expressed a similar fear that Mr. Stainbrook is out to get his opponents. “If Jon wins and he's punitive to the other side, he'll have some issues,” Ms. Sears said. “He ran somebody against me. What'd I do wrong? He made sure [Mr. Jones'] filing fees got paid, and why?”

Criticism rejected

Mr. Stainbrook has repeatedly denied encouraging Mr. Jones to run or paying his filing fees. Mr. Jones said Mr. Stainbrook was in the board of elections office when he needed some extra money to pay the fee, but that it wasn't Mr. Stainbrook who loaned him a few dollars.

Mr. Stainbrook rejected Mr. Haynam's criticism as dishonest, saying that for two years that Mr. Haynam has been behind efforts to decertify Republicans elected to the county central committee because they were allied with Mr. Stainbrook.

“That's an ironic quote coming from Mr. Haynam when he sued 52 of the newly recruited candidates that were Republicans. That was this year. And in 2008, he also sued and removed over 21 people from the Republican Party,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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