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Published: Friday, 3/9/2012

Election results set up fight to lead Ohio GOP panel

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Nearly half of the membership on the Ohio state Republican Party central committee will change as the result of elections held across the state on Tuesday, setting the stage for another round of skirmishing over party leadership.

Gov. John Kasich has made it clear he wants state party Chairman Kevin DeWine to step down or be replaced as chairman, but Mr. DeWine has refused. And in a statement released Wednesday, he said it was clear that a majority supports him.

"There were good people on both sides of the leadership contest and now that it's finally over, we must join together to unify our party moving forward," Mr. DeWine said. "There will no doubt be a few dissidents who try to continue this dispute. When they do, they will answer to the millions of Republicans in this nation who are counting on Ohio to ensure the defeat of Barack Obama in November."

Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, and an ally of Governor Kasich, didn't see it that way. He noted that the party's vice chairman, Kay Ayres of Hillsboro, and treasurer, Charles Knight of Fostoria, along with Jonathan Binkley of Toledo and five other incumbents were defeated. "There really has been a significant shift in the committee. That much is certain. What most participants now are hoping for is a cordial and orderly transition," Mr. Preisse said.

"We have a somewhat dysfunctional Republican family in Ohio right now and we're trying to fix it. That's important for the presidential race, for the U.S. Senate race [of Ohio Treasurer] Josh Mandel, and it's important for every down-ticket race," Mr. Preisse said.

He said he is not interested in becoming the state chairman and said many names have been advanced as possible chairmen.

The Republican Party's state central committee is the governing body of the party. It is made up of one woman and one man from each of the state's 33 Senate districts.

Of the 66 seats that were up for election on Tuesday, 36 went to incumbents and 29 went to new members, with one seat vacant.

Mr. Binkley of Toledo was defeated by Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook. Mr. Binkley was siding with Mr. DeWine, and he said Thursday he hopes Mr. DeWine isn't removed as chairman.

Mr. Stainbrook is an ally of Mr. Kasich.

Mr. Binkley said it was Kasich supporters who were behind a last-minute television advertising blitz on behalf of Mr. Stainbrook. The ads were paid for by a Columbus corporation called Restoring Ohio Inc.

In addition, the local Lucas County Republican Party mailed two postcards to support Mr. Stainbrook. Mr. Stainbrook said the large signs placed at polling places were not paid for by the party.

Mr. Binkley also benefited from a torrent of advertising paid for by an outside source -- the Ohio Republican Party. The state party paid for at least nine large full-color postcards to be mailed to Republican voters in the 11th Senate district. Mr. Stainbrook, who protested the mailings as a waste of state party funds that should be used against the Democrats, said there were 14 postcards.

"I would like to believe that the voters had confidence in me to cast a vote for me and I'm very appreciative and honored because they know I'm out here every day bringing the fight to the Democrats in Lucas County," Mr. Stainbrook said.

Mr. Stainbrook won the election with 51 percent of the vote. Mr. Binkley got 37 percent. Also running in the same election was Sean Binkley, who was unrelated to Jonathan Binkley, who got 12 percent of the vote.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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