The Lucas County Republican Party reorganization meeting Saturday ended more with a whimper than a bang, and that’s the best that could be hoped for.
Mark Wagoner, a lawyer and former state lawmaker, set out to win control of the local Republican Party from Jon Stainbrook, who has been running the party for the last 10 years. He succeeded, fortunately with no drama other than the intrinsic drama of American political democracy in action.
Mr. Wagoner’s dogged organization, fundraising, and capable campaigning helped him win a majority of the county central committee precinct elections in the May 8 primary. To avoid any political surprises from Mr. Stainbrook, who sees his political power slipping away, he reached out to state Republican Chairman Jane Timken to help plan the meeting.
In the end, when the party met Saturday night at Woodward High School, it was obvious from the very first set of votes to elect a temporary chairman that Mr. Stainbrook no longer commanded the Lucas County Republican Central Committee.
At that point, Mr. Stainbrook displayed class and declined to be nominated, effectively conceding defeat to the Wagoner camp.
And while a number of Mr. Stainbrook’s central committee allies stood up and walked out — refusing to do the work for which they were elected — Mr. Stainbrook himself made gracious remarks to the media, saluting the way the reorganization meeting was carried out and committing himself to party unity.
Mr. Stainbrook became the party chairman in 2008, in a time when the county party was decimated by the Tom Noe “Coingate” scandal, and when Republicans were having a hard time getting elected to county administrative row offices and Toledo City Council.
The party has done no better in that regard under Mr. Stainbrook. Though he has usually managed to find someone to fill the role of Republican nominee in countywide and city council races, many of those candidates lacked the stature and fundraising ability to make a serious run for office.
Voters in Lucas County want more than just a Republican name on a ballot to force the dominant Democrats to campaign seriously once in a while. They want a party that can recruit quality candidates and give voters a legitimate choice.
While Mr. Stainbrook’s antics of the last 10 years have often been entertaining, they haven’t been successful in giving Lucas County voters a full-fledged two-party government.
It may well take an election or two for Mr. Wagoner to rebuild the party’s fundraising apparatus and to start building a bench of local candidates who can compete for county commissioner and other jobs. The voters are entitled to a working two-party system in Lucas County. It’s been a long time since they’ve had one.
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