It was supposed to be a game changer. After a decade of a Lucas County Republican Party with Jon Stainbrook at the helm, the organized campaign that elected Mark Wagoner to replace Stainbrook as Party chair was supposed to breathe new life into the GOP.
Stainbrook was not favored by the old moneyed interests of the Party. He struggled to raise Party funds. His claim to fame was his ability to organize and attract young, fresh faces to the Party, which is what allowed him to win the seat in the first place. He filled precinct committee seats, and then recruited many of those precinct committee types to run for office.
Stainbrook’s stated goal was to have a candidate contesting as many elected positions as possible. In this, he was successful. Even in contests like Toledo City Council District 4, which has a largely Democratic electorate, Stainbrook didn’t cede the race to the Democrats.
Having candidates in every race kept the Democrats honest, forcing them to raise money for their own races rather than allowing them to raise money to give to other candidates. Stainbrook made sure the Ds could never get too comfortable. In theory, at least.
The reality was Stainbrook’s candidates were largely unknown outside of his circle of support. They were unknown to the electorate, and unknown to the folks who donate to GOP campaigns. They thus struggled to get any traction, raise any funds, and win any races. It might have seemed like a good idea to contest District 4 with Alfonso Narvaez, until election night when Narvaez repeatedly got trounced.
Hitching the GOP wagon to a star
Enter Wagoner, who out-organized Stainbrook and filled even more precinct committee seats to win the Party chair election. Wagoner is from a political and well-heeled GOP family. He is a lifetime resident of Ottawa Hills, and graduated from Georgetown. He has been elected to the Ohio Statehouse, and is well-connected with the GOP establishment, having served as Majority Whip in the Ohio Senate.
This should make him a much more formidable fundraiser than Stainbrook, and it was assumed he would be able to recruit and sustain much more viable candidates to challenge the D hegemony in Lucas County.
Then came twenty eighteen. Newly appointed Treasurer Lindsay Webb seemed vulnerable, and Wagoner recruited Lori Brodie, a successful elected Republican, to challenge her. Wagoner also recruited Toledo Council member Sandy Spang to challenge for a seat as a Lucas County Commissioner. And in a candidate recruitment trifecta, Toledo Muni Court Judge Joshua Lanzinger challenged for a seat on the County Common Pleas bench.
The moment of reckoning had come! Wagoner was about to begin to turn the tide for the GOP, chipping off three countywide elected positions in one election!
Except he didn’t. Webb won her election, and Spang and Lanzinger lost handily to their D opponents. The D hegemony continues unabated.
So here we are, in twenty nineteen. It’s April, when serious candidates announce their candidacies with big media events and lavish fundraisers. The Ds have already announced their candidate endorsements, and their new candidates for office. Millennial Carrie Hartman for Maumee City Council, and millennial Sam Melden for Toledo Council District 5! Young, energetic, and smart. Both have started their campaigns and commenced fundraising.
Where is the GOP? What new candidates are running to compete with the dominance of the Democratic dynasty? Where is the new energy, the youthful makeover?
In twenty eighteen, were Wagoner’s assumedly formidable lineup just some old pols running for new positions. In twenty nineteen, where are the new GOP faces? Is there no one out there that Stainbrook somehow missed in his decade as chair?
We’ll know within the next few weeks. Meanwhile, it seems that the Wagoner GOP might turn out to be all hat, no cowboy.