Turmoil in the T-Town political parties

. May 17, 2017.

All is not joy in Mudville.

Both the local Democrats and Republicans are in the throes of crisis in leadership. GOP Chair Jon Stainbrook and Dem Chair Joshua Hughes are each under fire from their respective parties, with powerful factions plotting their overthrow. Yet the challenges each face couldn’t be more different.

One way in

Here’s the facts. The only way to become party chair is to be elected by the party Central Committee. The C Comm is in turn elected by voters who declare for their respective party at a primary election. There is one member elected from each political precinct. Precincts are the smallest political subdivision, usually covering several blocks or so.

In theory, the partisan voters in each precinct would elect a member of the parties’ Central Committees by choosing the person in their precinct who best represents their partisan interests. The Central Committee representatives would in turn vote for party chairs who they think are best suited to organize and operate their party. That’s how a well-functioning democracy is supposed to work.

Instead, what typically happens is one of two scenarios. Either no one gives a rat’s patoot and their is no real battle over party chair, or their is an internal organizing fight and the C Comm is stacked with folks expressly recruited to elect a specific candidate for chair. Actually the latter scenario feeds off the former. The reason a candidate for chair can stack the C Comm is because, for the most part, no one gives a shucky darn who their C Comm representative is.

Exit strategies

Conversely, there are two ways a party chair can be ousted from office. They must either lose an election or be removed from office by the C Comm, or they must resign. GOP C Comm elects its chair every primary, which means every two years. Dems elect theirs only in Presidential primaries, or every four years.

When factional fights arise within the parties, it usually triggers an organizing drive to swing votes within the C Comm. That’s how Stainbrook got elected in the first place. He stacked the GOP C Comm with his own supporters. Every election cycle since, factions have arisen to challenge his chairmanship. Every time, Stainbrook and his followers have won enough precinct-level C Comm elections to retain enough of his supporters to stave off the challenge.

There has been simmering discontent over Stainbrook’s inability to field quality candidates or raise sufficient money to challenge the Dem stranglehold on power in Lucas County. Quick! Name the last three local GOP candidates who were elected to office with Stainbrook’s help. Heck, name three local GOP candidates period. Rob
Ludeman doesn’t count, he has been on Toledo City Council since CompuServe was a thing. And remains just about as relevant.

Rumor has it the Republicans who have won while distancing themselves from Stainbrook are eyeing a fight for the chairmanship in next year’s primary. Their leader is supposedly Mark Wagoner, former State Senator from Ottawa Hills. A credible challenger, to be sure, but can he and his cohort win enough precinct-level elections to get the C Comm votes? It’s been tried before, to no avail. Will the fact that high-powered gubernatorial candidate Jon Husted, now Ohio Secretary of State, has publicly slammed Stainbrook tip the scales this time around?

Not joshin’ around

The other way to change chairs is if the chair resigns. Hughes got his seat when party chair Steven Steel resigned after being elected President of Toledo City Council in twenty fifteen. Hughes then won a special election by the Dem C Comm later that summer, with support from across the party. The Dems were a well-oiled machine, sweeping to local victories, and Hughes was re-elected without opposition in twenty sixteen.

Since then the wheels have come off. Hughes has angered several factions within the party, including the large and money-rich building trades. Flashback. It was the building trades who organized the C Comm elections in twenty oh-four to oust Paula Ross as party chair.
The last straw this time around seems to have been the way-early pre-primary endorsement of incumbent Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson engineered by Chairman Hughes. That drove a deep wedge into the party, with some factions supporting the decision and others calling for Hughes’ head. But Hughes isn’t up for re-election until twenty twenty. The only way to oust him sooner is if he resigns.

How to convince him he needs to go? They say money is the lifeblood of politics. So the anti-Hughes faction has pledged to cut off funds while Hughes is chair. In turn, Hughes has vowed to fight on, demanding increased financial contributions from Dem elected officials and even threatening to remove dissenting members of the party Executive Committee. We hear the battle has become heatedly personal, with threats and accusations and personal snubs.

Both parties are in for a factional death match. The anti-Stainbrook faction of the GOP quietly organizes behind the scenes for next year’s C Comm fight. The anti-Hughes faction of the Dems ratchets up the flame under their chair’s hot seat to try to force him to resign.
Our prediction? More fun and hijinx than we can possibly imagine. Games on!