COLUMBUS — Veteran Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett has set a firm date for his second exit as leader of the party, setting the stage for the naming of his successor next month.
In a letter sent to state central committee members, Mr. Bennett said he will step down again on May 31, putting a firm date on his already announced intention to keep the term to which he was newly re-elected brief.
“Even though we have discussed the pending necessity of such an action, I had been uncertain in my mind as to the timing of this step,” Mr. Bennett wrote. “It has become clear to me that now is the best opportunity for an orderly transition to a new Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.”
He indicated that he expects the 66-member committee to elect a new chairman at its April 26 meeting.
“I believe I step back at a time when the party is strong and ready for any number of excellent new leaders who continue to emerge from our Ohio Republican ranks,” he wrote.
Mr. Bennett chaired the Republican Party for 21 years, handing over the reins to protégé Kevin DeWine, a former Dayton area state representative in 2009. His absence was brief, however. He returned to the party’s helm last year to resolve a bitter tug of war over control of the party as Gov. John Kasich maneuvered to oust Mr. DeWine as chairman and replace him with his own choice.
Mr. Bennett’s exodus comes sooner than even he had originally planned. At the time of his election last year, he indicated that he wanted to stay through the 2014 gubernatorial election.
Mr. Bennett’s tenure has been marked with both highs and lows. In last year’s election, the party was unable to defeat either President Obama or U.S. Sherrod Brown, but the GOP tightened its grip on control of the Ohio General Assembly.