It’s a new era for the Lucas County Republican Party.
In a highly anticipated reorganization meeting, leadership of the local GOP passed uneventfully from Jon Stainbrook, who had chaired the party for a decade, to former state legislator and current attorney Mark Wagoner.
It was expected that Stainbrook would pull some eleventh hour shenanigans to retain his seat. In the past, Stainbrook has met challenges to his chairmanship with threats of violence and goons to make them believable.
Not this time. Wagoner and his backers outspent and out-organized the Stainbrook faction, recruiting supporters to run for precinct-level seats all across the county and running their campaigns like elections to much larger seats. It has been clear since the primary results in May that the Wagoner side had the votes on the GOP Central Committee to oust Stainbrook and install new leadership.
For all the adolescent games and embarrassing hijinx of the past, this time Stainbrook looked positively statesmanlike. It was a last hurrah, of course. Removed from the Board of Elections, voted off GOP leadership at the state level, Stainbrook and Megan Gallagher, the Natasha to his Boris Badenov, have now lost influence completely.
So what does the power shift mean for City Politics?
The GOP has nowhere to go but up. Currently there are two Republicans out of twelve members on Toledo City Council, and every County-wide position is held by a Democrat. What’s more, neither current Republican council member relied on Stainbrook for support in getting elected.
Meanwhile, as Democrats have dominated elections in the City of Toledo, and made inroads in the outlying areas, the Stainbrook GOP struggled to raise money, and endorsed a sad sack assortment of losers, odd ducks, and misfits. Stainbrook liked to brag that he recruited candidates and contested every race. What that analysis misses is that is he also lost pretty much every one, too.
What can Wagoner do differently?
1. Activate the GOP Central Committee. Stainbrook rose to power on his ability to recruit precinct-level candidates. Now Wagoner has recruited even more. Will they work to turn out votes for the GOP, or do they think their task is complete by electing Wagoner to leadership?
2. Raise enough money to create electoral infrastructure. There’s little doubt the former state-level elected official can stimulate donations at a much higher level than Stainbrook. Will he use the dollars effectively? Flushing money down a rat hole of failed campaigns will accomplish little. Investing in infrastructure needed to compete in 2018 would do a great deal more.
3. Recruit candidates with credibility and name recognition who can actually compete in elections. Stainbrook contested races. Can Wagoner find viable candidates who might win? There are no obvious folks waiting in the wings, ready willing and able to fill the bill. Even before Stainbrook, the GOP struggled to win elections in a largely Democratic county. Will it be any different under Wagoner?
Lonely at the top
The biggest question facing Wagoner isn’t in that list, though. The biggest question isn’t even in his control. His success or failure will ultimately be determined by others.
The local Democrats have spent much of the Stanbrook years fat and successful, mostly because of the inadequacy of the GOP. Heck, Independents have been a bigger threat to the Democratic dominance than anything coming from Stainbrook. Having no fight from the Republicans, the Ds have instead picked their fights among themselves.
Which begs the question that will determine how effective Wagoner is likely to be. Will the Lucas County Democratic Party recognize the potential sea change in the election of Wagoner, stop the counterproductive infighting, pull together and step up their game?
Ball’s in your court, Ds.