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Published: Thursday, 6/10/2010

Stainbrook keeps control of local Republican Party

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After Mr. Stainbrook's name was announced as the winner defeating Jeff Simpson, there were fist pumps in the air, cheers, and handshakes. Mr. Stainbrook was elected by a visual tally of the most number of people who stood up in the room.

“Now it's time to bring this party together so we get the best statewide slate that I've seen in my lifetime and bring this fight to the Democrats where it belongs,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

A pro-Stainbrook tilt of the approximately 258 committee members who took part in the voting was evident about 10:40 p.m. when Mr. Stainbrook's ally, Meghan Gallagher, was elected central committee chairman 147 to 111 against Simpson ally Paul Hoag.

Mr. Stainbrook was elected to a second term against Mr. Simpson, whose backers included many of those who opposed Mr. Stainbrook in his successful but bitterly contested 2008 election campaign for chairman.

Mr. Simpson accepted his defeat, saying the party had work to do.

“What I see in this room is passion. After this vote, we have work to do,” Mr. Simpson said. “Tomorrow is the day we take on not the people in this room but the real enemy, the Democratic Party.”

The face of rival Jeff Simpson reflects the intensity of the night. The face of rival Jeff Simpson reflects the intensity of the night.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The meeting was chaired by state GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine, who came from Columbus in an effort to restore “civility” to a county party that has been ripped by internal disputes.

He said he stepped in because a judge had ruled in February that Mr. Stainbrook's 2008 election as chairman was invalid. That ruling is under appeal by Mr. Stainbrook.

Mr. DeWine brought with him about 15 party staffers and other party officials to assist him.

He appealed for the fight to end last night and for the party to unify in support of local and state Republican officeholders.

“I encourage you to view this meeting not as the latest battle in an ongoing civil war, but as the last fight in a conflict that has gone on too long,” Mr. DeWine said. “This county is too important to let this conflict continue.”

However, it quickly became clear that almost every decision of Mr. DeWine was going to be challenged by one side or the other.

The central committee is made up of the 322 people who were elected from their precincts on May 4.

Mr. Stainbrook was known to have had a majority of precinct committee members supporting him going into the meeting.

The initial roll call revealed a turnout of about 280 people. By the time of the first ballot vote, the number present had dropped to 258, and continued to fall as people became frustrated with the long wait and left.

One of those who left before the vote for chairman was Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher of Springfield Township, nationally famous for an impromptu debate on his front lawn with Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.

The meeting that was supposed to start at 7 didn't get under way until 7:45 p.m. And then it was lengthened in arguments over how to take the roll and then over how to conduct voting.

Ms. Gallagher made a motion to reject the rules provided by Mr. DeWine under which voting would have been by secret ballot and instead to require an open roll call. The motion failed.

Jim Izbinski, 54, supported the motion for a roll-call vote, saying he was disenfranchised in 2008 when his absentee ballot was not counted and later was found stuck in a box.

“I don't trust anyone putting a bunch of stuff in a box. I don't trust the process because I've been disenfranchised,” Mr. Izbinski said.

Pamela Hanley of Sylvania Township spoke in favor of the secret ballot.

“People who support this motion would also support the ‘card check,'” Ms. Hanley told the assembly, referring to a controversial goal of the labor movement to eliminate the necessity of a secret ballot in union-organizing elections.

Central Committee member David Kissinger of Maumee spoke against Ms. Gallagher's attempt to change the secret-ballot rule, but said he didn't want the dispute to continue past last night.

“The bottom line is, the Lucas County Republican Party needs to get together as one unified body,” Mr. Kissinger said.

In December, Mr. Simpson and Mr. Hoag claimed they had ousted Mr. Stainbrook and Ms. Gallagher and had been elected chairman and central committee chairman.

While Mr. Simpson never became the recognized chairman, the ensuing legal fight succeeded indirectly in preventing Mr. Stainbrook from gaining a position on the four-member Lucas County Board of Elections.

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner refused to appoint Mr. Stainbrook to replace Simpson ally Lynn Olman on the Board of Elections after Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Charles Doneghy issued a ruling declaring neither Mr. Simpson nor Mr. Stainbrook had been validly elected chairman.

Mr. Stainbrook appealed that opinion to the 6th District Court of Appeals for Lucas County, which has yet to act on the appeal.

Despite the legal cloud, Mr. Stainbrook continued to function as chairman, holding a successful Lincoln Day Dinner with Karl Rove and helping get Republicans elected to Toledo City Council and Toledo Municipal Court.

The meeting was preceded by politicking that nearly descended into the bare-knuckle level, with both sides accusing the other of harassment and dirty political tricks.

Blade Staff Writer JC Reindl contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Troy at:tomtroy@theblade.comor 419-724-6058.



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