The Lucas County Republican Party is likely headed for new leadership after 10 years of roller-coaster politics under Chairman Jon Stainbrook.
Let’s hope the next chairman can succeed where Mr. Stainbrook didn’t — at making Republicans competitive at countywide races.
Toledo lawyer Mark Wagoner mounted a professional and well-organized campaign for control of the Lucas County Republican Central Committee in Toledo’s primary election last Tuesday and was overwhelmingly successful.
The Wagoner slate won about 200 of the county’s 312 precinct committeeman seats while candidates loyal to Mr. Stainbrook won fewer than 100. What that means is that when the Central Committee organization meeting takes place in early June, Mr. Wagoner will likely have the votes to be elected to a two-year term as chairman.
Under Mr. Stainbrook, the Republican Party has spent a lot of energy in self-destructive battles over control of the Lucas County Board of Elections, and in constant feuding between his own power center in the city of Toledo and the Republicans in suburbs such as Sylvania, Oregon, and Monclova Township — rarely to the advantage of Republicans trying to get elected to municipal, county, and statewide office.
During all that time, Republicans have not secured one countywide office, such as commissioner, treasurer, auditor, recorder, sheriff, engineer, coroner, prosecutor, or clerk of courts. All 11 offices have been held by Democrats since 2007.
Nor has Toledo City Council seen an upsurge in Republican office holders. Instead, Republican representation has declined from a high of four Republicans to the two serving now.
The blame doesn’t rest entirely on Mr. Stainbrook, who backed several credible candidates for these offices. No one could put more energy into the job than Mr. Stainbrook has. Lucas County has been Democratic for a long time. It was an issue when he became chairman in 2008 and it still is today. But some measure of the blame must rest on the chairman.
A chairman must be a facilitator who brings people together, soothes rivalries, and forgets hurt feelings as quickly as possible. A chairman has to be willing to fade into the background and let the candidates shine. The chairman must be able to articulate Republican values and show that he believes in them.
Republicans in Lucas County have given Mr. Stainbrook 10 years to turn the ship around. It hasn’t happened, and the methods deployed over the last decade have made the situation worse. The election last Tuesday was a complete rejection of the Stainbrook slate. He lost in his own precinct for county central committee and in his bid for the state Republican central committee, as did his close ally and partner in the hijinks of the last 10 years, Meghan Gallagher.
Mr. Wagoner is a resident of Ottawa Hills, a lawyer, and a former state senator and state representative who showed he knows how to win a political contest and has good relationships at the state level.
He has his work cut out for him. For one thing, the work of winning this election was, to a significant extent, provided by Tea Party activists who do not fully share Mr. Wagoner’s more establishment Republican political outlook. That will be a dispute for the next chairman to work out.
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