The executive committee of the Lucas County Republican Party on Wednesday nominated Kelly Bensman and Ben Roberts — two trusted allies of party Chairman Jon Stainbrook — to fill the party’s two vacant board seats in charge of the dysfunctional Lucas County Board of Elections.
The nominations now go to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who can appoint the nominees, or possibly rule that both candidates were too closely tied to the board’s previous problems.
Mr. Roberts, 45, of Maumee is a self-employed management consultant who served as director of elections about six months before resigning in December, 2011.
Ms. Bensman, 37, of Toledo, a hydrogeologist employed by an environmental consulting firm, has been an adviser and operative for Mr. Stainbrook through many legal and political battles involving the board of elections.
Both were nominated from the floor in the closed-door meeting of the party’s executive committee held at the Main Street Bar & Grill in East Toledo. They were elected unanimously and there were no other nominations, Mr. Stainbrook said afterward.
“The committee has spoken and they chose two qualified names, and I will stand by the pick of the committee,” Mr. Stainbrook said.
Mr. Husted removed Mr. Stainbrook and fellow Republican Anthony DeGidio from their seats on the board of elections June 5 for neglect of duty and misfeasance in office. He also removed former Democratic board member Ron Rothenbuhler for the same reasons. Mr. Husted cited the board’s failure to perform required duties, such as referring campaign finance violations and holding regularly scheduled meetings, along with allowing a toxic office environment permeated with accusations and allegations of tampering and sabotage to flourish.
He said he would accept no nominees “with ties to problems of the past.”
Lucas County Democrats are set to meet in executive session tonight to nominate someone to fill Mr. Rothenbuhler’s seat.
Some observers expected the committee to nominate a retired judge, such as Republican Peter Handwork, to provide the board with judicial even-handedness. Mr. Stainbrook said he deferred to the committee, but he thanked Mr. Handwork for his work under a temporary appointment by Mr. Husted to oversee the Lucas County board during the May 6 election aftermath.
After the executive committee meeting, Mr. Roberts said he looks forward to working again with the board and to provide his expertise in management. He said he quit in 2011 because the board would not allow him to do his job.
Ms. Bensman said, “I’m looking forward to serving the voters of Lucas County and helping to restore confidence in the Lucas County Board of Elections.”
The executive committee meeting in East Toledo coincided with a meeting in Maumee staged by Republicans who organized a rival Lucas County Republican Party.
David Kissinger of Maumee announced he was elected chairman by the group, which attracted at least 20 central committee members, the number he said makes a quorum under party bylaws. The group met at the Maumee Senior Center and cited a provision in state law that allows rival groups to claim to represent a county party. Mr. Kissinger said it would be up to the state central committee to decide which is the legitimate Lucas County Republican Party.
Mr. Stainbrook called the coup attempt a fraud.
Ohio state GOP Chairman Matt Borges notified Mr. Husted that the state party recognizes only the GOP county central committee chaired by Mr. Stainbrook.
Staff writer Marissa Medansky contributed to this report.
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