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Published: Wednesday, 6/9/2010

New start for county GOP

Ohio Republican Chairman Kevin DeWine will be in town tonight to take credit for ending the months-long battle for leadership of the Lucas County Republican Party. One thing is certain: Whichever faction wins control of the county apparatus, state leadership will not have been responsible.

When a coup attempt by old-guard Republicans last year failed to oust county GOP chairman Jon Stainbrook but left leadership of the local party in doubt, state party leaders were asked to step in to resolve the dispute. They declined, eventually opting to wait until after a new slate of central committee members was elected May 4.

That opened the door to months of very public bickering. Charges and countercharges, suits and countersuits flew back and forth between Mr. Stainbrook and supporters of Jeff Simpson, the Toledo lawyer who attempted to replace him. The result was a dampening of enthusiasm among the rank and file that undoubtedly has hurt the chances of local GOP candidates in November.

State leaders should have stepped in earlier to enforce rules and make sure the county party had undisputed leadership. The party noted at the national level for its discipline chose instead to allow its local affiliate to become a laughingstock.

Worse, the state organization avoided the question of the coup attempt's legitimacy. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the reticence of state party leaders to condemn the coup organizers was prompted by distaste for Mr. Stainbrook's sometimes abrasive style and a secret wish the coup had been successful.

There is no excuse for leaving the county party swinging in the wind for several months, damaging Republican election hopes and the democratic process in Lucas County.

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