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Dems’ pick for board questioned

Stainbrook: Hill’s good, but also linked to past

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Hill

THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
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The choice of Brenda Hill and not a retired judge for a Democratic seat on the Lucas County Board of Elections was providing ammunition Friday to Republican county Chairman Jon Stainbrook.

The Lucas County Democratic Party executive committee Thursday nominated Ms. Hill, who is treasurer of the county party, an ally of Chairman Steven Steel, and a member of the central committee, to replace Ron Rothenbuhler, who was removed, along with two Republicans, on June 5. She tendered her resignation as treasurer, effective when and if Secretary of State Jon Husted ratifies her appointment to the board of elections.

The county Republican Party executive committee Wednesday nominated Kelly Bensman and Ben Roberts, leading to the reaction from Mr. Husted‘‍s spokesman, Matt McClellan, that he was disappointed at the nominations of people who “have ties to the failures of the past.”

Mr. McClellan declined to comment on Ms. Hill’‍s nomination. But Mr. Stainbrook asserted that Ms. Hill is just as tied to the past as his party’‍s nominees.

“You don’t get the appointment of treasurer if you’re not connected to the party,” Mr. Stainbrook asserted in reference to Ms. Hill. “I like her, I think she’ll be a great board member. Their party makes their pick. The Republican Party makes their pick. What’s fair is fair.”

Ms. Hill has had little direct involvement with the elections board. A retired teacher, she was appointed to the Toledo Board of Education in 2009. Later that year she was elected to her own term on the board and opted last year not to seek re-election.

Ms. Bensman and Mr. Roberts, on the other hand, have been involved in the board of elections; Ms. Bensman as an adviser and operative for Mr. Stainbrook and Mr. Roberts as director in 2011.

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Stainbrook

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One prominent local Republican who has opposed Mr. Stainbrook said Friday that the secretary of state should respect the process spelled out in state law giving local political parties the right to choose board members. Doug Haynam, a Sylvania city councilman and Sylvania GOP ward chairman, said, “Kelly and Ben are both capable.”

“At the end of the day it’s the prerogative of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party to put people forward. I don’t know that the secretary of state ought to presume that these people can’t do the job,” Mr. Haynam said.

In the past, Mr. Haynam has battled Mr. Stainbrook over control of the party and has faced Ms. Bensman in some of those political and legal battles. He said he has also worked with her, and found her a “valued ally” in getting Republicans elected. He said Mr. Roberts’ tenure as director “wasn’t scandalous in any regard.”

Mr. Husted on June 5 removed Mr. Stainbrook, Republican Tony DeGidio, and Mr. Rothenbuhler for neglect of duty and misfeasance in office, and for allowing a “toxic” environment to flourish.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.

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