With the local Republican Party chairman pointedly absent, Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted addressed the first official meeting of the reconstituted Lucas County Board of Elections Tuesday.
Mr. Husted praised the board for agreeing to serve following a period of turbulence and promised the help of his office in restoring public trust in elections in Lucas County.
“This is in my view a new and better day. As you look to carry forward this day I hope you will do so in the cause of creating a climate and culture of cooperation and competency, which I believe are important for the kind of environment that needs to be established in the Lucas County Board of Elections,” Mr. Husted said.
The four-member board met in official session for the first time and the board members unanimously elected Democrat Brenda Hill, a retired teacher and former president of the Toledo Board of Education, as chairman.
By statute, the chairman must be of the opposite political party of the director. Republican Gina Kaczala is the interim director.
Afterward, Ms. Hill said Mr. Husted gave them a positive send-off.
“We’re all on the same page right now. We are going to work together so all they say about us in the future is ‘job well done,’ ” Ms. Hill said.
Lucas County had been without an elections board since June 5 when Mr. Husted removed three former board members to end what he called a culture of dysfunction. He left Democrat John Irish in place. Mr. Husted appointed Ms. Hill based on the nomination of the Lucas County Democratic Party, but rejected the appointees of the Lucas County Republican Party, instead selecting attorney Mark Wagoner, Sr., of Ottawa Hills and retired state appeals judge Peter Handwork of Sylvania Township to fill the Republican seats.
The Lucas County GOP has sued in the Ohio Supreme Court to reverse Mr. Husted’s appointments. Mr. Husted, a Republican, said he’ll follow the court’s order when it is issued.
He said Mr. Wagoner and Mr. Handwork had the right demeanor and “broad-based support from local community leaders that I spoke with.”
Mr. Stainbrook was once securely in charge of the Republican half of the elections board, holding one of the board positions himself, having his close associate Meghan Gallagher as director and having his former attorney, Tony DeGidio, appointed as the other Republican board member.
In the last year, however, Mr. Stainbrook fell out with Mr. DeGidio, resulting in March in a 3-1 vote removing Ms. Gallagher as director. She was replaced by her former administrative assistant, Ms. Kaczala.
Mr. Stainbrook said he didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting because he wasn’t given advance notice, and he already had political duties scheduled for Tuesday. Mr. Stainbrook has said he tried to root out corruption and incompetence on the board and got little help from the secretary of state. He declined to comment on the special meeting.
The elections board scheduled a hearing on Aug. 21 to decide on the challenge filed against Toledo Councilman Jack Ford’s status as an independent candidate for the state Senate.
Steven Steel, chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, filed a protest claiming Mr. Ford doesn’t fit the legal definition of an independent because he voted a Democratic ballot in the May 6 election.