GOP races could reshape state committeeWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
Eight local Republicans will vie for four spots on the party’s state central committee to be decided in the May 6 primary election, the most contentious being the races for the District 11 seats held by Jon Stainbrook and Meghan Gallagher.
Stainbrook and Gallagher are both finishing their first term and seeking a second. Stainbrook is chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party and member of the Lucas County Board of Elections (BOE). Gallagher was recently ousted as director of the BOE. Running against them are Bill Delaney of Toledo, a retired bar owner who recently ran for City Council, and Diana Skaff, a financial adviser and precinct representative from Curtice.
Mark Wagoner and Dee Talmage are the current District 2 state central committee members. Running against them are Perrysburg business owner Ron LeRoux and Maureen Alexander of Ottawa Hills, both political newcomers.
The 66-member state central committee is comprised of two representatives, a male and a female, elected from each of Ohio’s 33 Senate districts for two-year terms. Members represent their districts as the group formulates the statewide bylaws that direct how the party handles elections, and endorsements and assists in funding and getting candidates elected.
District 11 comprises most of Toledo while District 2 comprises western Lucas County, including Ottawa Hills, as well as Wood, Ottawa and Erie counties and most of Fulton county.
Delaney, 73, was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He came to Toledo in 1973 while working as a district food manager for Kmart. He said he is getting more involved in politics now that he no longer has a business to run.
“I’m getting more and more disgusted as I go through it,” Delaney said. “I just want the truth. I want to dig into things on the bookkeeping side because that’s what gets me. What does this cost? How much did we spend on it? How much are we getting back in return? I want to know where the money is going.”
He said the local GOP needs a change and he is not a fan of current party leadership, particularly Stainbrook.
“I’ve seen this man operate. He disgusts me. I’m sorry,” Delaney said. “I just want to see people being treated fairly and they have not been. I want to see a better Toledo and a better Republican Party.”
He said the organization is currently “very closed.”
“It’s their way, their club, their people and there’s a lot of people in town that know this but don’t want to come out of the shadows,” Delaney said. “There’s a lot of fear.”
He said he would like to see more communication between local conservative organizations, including Republicans, Libertarians and the tea party.
“We’ve got to draw all these ideologies into one big R because we’re not going to get anyplace being divided,” Delaney said. “There’s too much division. I want to get all these people together in one group. You’ve got to have somewhere where you can talk about it. Right now, there’s no talking going on. We have got to form a better organization.”
Stainbrook, 50, of Toledo, said Delaney’s claims are “not substantiated” and that he, Skaff, LeRoux and Alexander are all “protest candidates” put forth by tea party groups.
John McAvoy of the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition, which recruited Delaney and Skaff to run against Stainbrook and Gallagher, said his group endorses candidates from all parties. He said Republican groups outside Toledo are ignored by Stainbrook.
“If I was chairman of the party, I’d be like a business manager surrounding himself with good people,” McAvoy said. “The managers are already there — out in Fallen Timbers, Maumee. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just bring them in, bring them together, utilize the resources that are already available.”
Stainbrook said he has done just that. He said the Lucas County Republican Party has grown and diversified under his leadership as chairman since 2008.
Six years ago, the party often had difficulty even drawing a quorum of 25 members for central committee meetings, Stainbrook said. Today the meetings regularly draw 75-100 members.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “We brought people in. We recruited and filled the central committee with people all over Lucas County, people who had never been involved before. There’s great Republicans who just weren’t being recruited so we went out and did it.
“We’ve rebuilt this party since 2008 and it’s a force to be reckoned with, fighting the Democrats, not each other,” he said.
Stainbrook questioned why Delaney wants to be involved with the party at the state level but hasn’t gotten involved at the local level.
“He just wants to criticize without being a member of the team,” Stainbrook said. “Talk minus action equals zero.”
Delaney said he isn’t running for county central committee because there’s already a representative he respects in his precinct. The same question has been posed to McAvoy, who said he doesn’t run for office because of his membership in the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition, which has a policy that its members will not run for office because of its endorsements of all political parties.
Stainbrook also questioned Delaney’s choice of party affilitation.
“He ran as an independent for City Council and all of a sudden now he wants to represent the Republican Party in Columbus?” he said.
Stainbrook said he is confident in the re-election of himself and the three other District 11 incumbents, all of whom were endorsed by the Lucas County Republican Party.
“I have a great working relationship with the governor’s office and with the Ohio Republican Party,” Stainbrook said. “You want to make sure Senate District 11 has the proper conservative Republican core values represented at the state level and we absolutely do.”
Stainbrook and Delaney both said conservatives need to work together.
“The tea party and Republican Party agree on 85 percent. Can’t we just work together and work on that last 15 percent? I think we can,” Stainbrook said.
However, Delaney said he doesn’t believe Stainbrook is sincere.
“Absolutely not. It’s a private club to him,” Delaney said.
Skaff said she and others haven’t been invited or welcome at meetings, even after requesting to be. Stainbrook said that’s not true.
“We have to have open meetings and we’ve followed Ohio’s sunshine laws to the T,” Stainbrook said. “Everything is done by the book because I’m under the microscope with these guys. That’s ludicrous they would even say that.
“I have people who support me. Let the voters decide. I’ve done a good job and I want to continue,” he said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the party, to make sure Columbus knows Lucas County is up here. I’ve got that bridge. I’ve built that.”
Stainbrook, who is known for being divisive and argumentative, said he gets his fighting spirit from his father.
“He would always say, ‘If you know you’re right, don’t back down.’ He’s stubborn,” Stainbrook said.
On May 1, the BOE voted to launch an investigation against Stainbrook over an accusation that he encouraged an employee via text to slow down elections work.
Stainbrook said his phone records will prove the accusation is untrue and that those who try to bring BOE issues into the state central committee race are trying to compare apples to oranges.
“They are always trying to make this about the Board of Elections. The state committee has nothing to do with that,” Stainbrook said. “If you’re going to talk, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about.”
Skaff, 59, of Curtice, is a financial adviser with her husband, Tom, at Wells Fargo Advisors. She has been her precinct representative for several years. Lucas County has 352 precincts, although not all the precinct representative seats are filled.
Skaff grew up in South Toledo and graduated from St. Ursula Academy and the University of Toledo. She has taught business classes at UT and has her pilot’s license. She is also active at CedarCreek Church and with Heartbeat of Toledo.
Skaff said she started to become more politically active because of her growing concern about Obamacare. Her experience with the health care system after her 16-year-old daughter sustained a brain injury in a 1996 car accident convinced her a government-run system was not in the best interest of the people.
“I’m kind of an accidental activist,” Skaff said. “I’m a self-starter. I’m pretty independent. I’ve worked for myself most of my life. I raised a good family.
“The bylaws and the way the Republican Party is organized is very important and who we endorse as candidates is critical,” Skaff said. “I want to make a difference. I have five grandchildren and I got tired of just reading about problems and saying, ‘Why isn’t anyone standing up for this?’ I finally looked in the mirror and said to myself, ‘It’s time.’”
Skaff said she would attend local Republican club meetings to listen to what people want and take that back to the statehouse.
“The clubs we visit, those people have ideas and they are not being heard,” Skaff said. “No one is listening. That’s something I would do differently. Not just listening, but being accountable too.”
McAvoy said state central committee members need to have good networking skills.
“It helps to bring a network in with you rather than establishing a new network. So if you have some of those networks already available and you’re currently utilizing them, that’s a really big part of this job,” McAvoy said.
Being able to work and interact with people you may dislike is also a necessity.
“That’s a challenge, but if you can’t do that then you’re in the wrong job,” McAvoy said.
Both Skaff and Delaney said they would “come to the table” and listen to the viewpoints of others. Although change has been slow, they are confident it will come.
“There’s great people in government and there’s a lot of them that are standing up. They just need to be supported and then what will happen is you get more people to stand up,” Skaff said. “It’s really lonely to be the first two or three to stand up, but as people respect that and see that, they’ll follow. It doesn’t take 50 percent; it takes an active 15-20 percent of people to change things.
“Being a mom and raising a family, I know how to handle children and their little temper tantrums,” Skaff said. “I’d like to see a more responsive Republican Party and see the rule of law apply for everyone, the meetings being held according to the bylaws and rules being followed.
“The American people and the citizens of Toledo have a lot of wisdom. Everyone who is running their own business and raising a family, we have a lot of common sense. We could solve the problems the elites won’t. We have the answers. They are not listening to our answers. That’s the problem. We have common sense on our side. We know how to sit down at the kitchen table and balance a budget. We stop spending so much! But they don’t want to hear our answers,” Skaff said. “We have the answers. They aren’t listening. We would listen, and we will take that message to Columbus.”
Delaney said he and Skaff just want a chance to prove themselves.
“What I want to do and what she wants to do is we want to try to make a difference, someway, somehow,” he said. “Give us just the opportunity. Let us show you what we can do.”
Gallagher did not respond to a request for comment.
Wagoner, 42, of Ottawa Hills, is a lawyer at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick in Toledo. He spent eight years in the state legislature as a senator and representative. He was appointed to the Republican state central committee to replace his father, also named Mark Wagoner, who resigned.
“I came back home to spend more time with my kids and focus on my law practice, but I still want to be engaged and help Republicans be elected at all levels,” Wagoner said. “I just want to make sure our voice in Northwest Ohio is heard down in Columbus.
“I’ve been in politics a long time now and been able to hold leadership positions in the Senate. I have personal relationships with people throughout the district and I think I can be helpful.
“We have to continue with the success we’ve had in statewide elections. All five statewide officials are Republicans. I was in Columbus when four of the five were Democrats and I can tell you, who is in those offices matter. We want to continue to make sure we have a winning slate for this fall.”
LeRoux, 47, of Perrysburg, is a journeyman tool and die maker who owns Odyssey Machine Company in Perrysburg with his two sons. He said he’s always been “politically aware,” but it wasn’t until he started attending tea party events that he decided to run for office.
“The old-fashioned me thinks that’s something people who like to be in the public eye get involved in, but the newborn constitutionalist in me realizes it’s the duty of every citizen to get involved,” LeRoux said.
“I’m a problem-solver. That’s what I do in my business,” he said. “I’m a good organizer and I’m a very good structural thinker. I think I’ll bring back something to the party that will pay back the citizens of the party, not just the special interests.”
LeRoux said he sees a divide between the beliefs of his conservative friends and neighbors and the state Republican Party.
“The results that are coming out of the Republican Party do not resemble the things we believe in. I don’t consider myself a lawmaker, but to get involved at the party level makes sense to me. I can help build a party platform that makes sense to my neighbors and friends,” LeRoux said.
“Individually, I couldn’t point a finger at any member of the state central committee and say they are doing a bad job. All I can do is look at the whole and the result is not what I would expect. … Career politicians don’t belong on committees; people do.”
Talmage, 73, of Ottawa Hills, has been a state central committee member since 2002. The former chairwoman of the Lucas County Republican Party is a retired teacher and former Ottawa Hills Board of Education member. She is also a member of many local boards and is active in numerous local Republican clubs. She was Wagoner’s campaign manager during several of his state races.
“I love working with people and with the political process,” Talmage said. “I do a lot of networking with the boards I’m on. I really know the area and am passionate about the community and having people work together.
“Our job is to recruit and get Republican leaders elected. That’s our main job. I really know a lot of people and I try to get people involved that way. It’s a lot about networking. It’s not really about taking a stand on any issue.”
Alexander, of Ottawa Hills, is a sales representative for Maxima Supply based near Lansing, Michigan. After years away, she returned to her native Northwest Ohio to raise her two children, now both in college.
Alexander said many of her views lean Libertarian, but she believes in a two-party system.
“A lot of what I’m driven by is fiscal policy,” Alexander said. “I really have dire concerns about this country from a financial standpoint. I don’t know how we can continue on this path. Socially I’m more of a moderate, but as far as the fiscal part I’m definitely conservative.”
Frustration with the state legislative panel that voted in 2013 to allow the expansion of Medicaid sparked Alexander’s entry into politics.
“I’m very frustrated that our party basically went along with this, even though the voters in Ohio didn’t agree,” Alexander said. “I just feel we have to have some change. If I keep sitting and accepting the way things are, it’s going to be the status quo.”
Alexander said she admires her opponent Talmage, but wants to offer voters a choice.
“She has a phenomenal record, she’s a huge volunteer. She’s done an amazing job. Most people can’t believe I’m running against her, but I don’t see any changes to the policies and platforms of the Republican Party. I see the same people running again and again,” Alexander said.
“I realize I’m an underdog. I don’t have any campaign signs. That’s not really in a single mom’s budget. It’s a real grassroots, word-of-mouth campaign. I’m just hoping for the opportunity.
My cousin told me, ‘Maureen, you sit there and talk about this stuff, but you don’t do anything about it.’ I’d like to at least offer up a different option and let the voters decide.”
The candidates for Lucas County’s four Democratic state central committee seats — Mike Friedman and Alexandra Huguelet in District 11 and Thomas Galloway and Margaret Mary Murray in District 2 — are running unopposed.
Tags: Bill Delaney, Dee Talmage, Diana Skaff, GOP, John McAvoy, Jon Stainbrook, Lucas County Board of Elections, Lucas County Republican Party, Mark Wagoner, Maureen Alexander, Meghan Gallagher, Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition, Ron LeRoux, State Central Committee