GOP, Democratic Party Chairs Fight For Their Jobs

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Kevin Dewine (left) and Chris Redfern are both fighting local party leader attempts to oust the state party chairmen.(Photo: Party Web sites)
Kevin Dewine (left) and Chris Redfern are both fighting local party leader attempts to oust the state party chairmen.(Photo: Party Web sites)

The chairs of Ohio’s major political parties can each claim a very successful campaign in recent years.

But that’s not shielding either of them from attempted coups within the parties.

The behind the scenes war at the Ohio Republican Party has been visible for months. It started quietly after the GOP racked up huge wins in the 2010 election, and newly elected Gov. John Kasich wanted Chairman Kevin DeWine to resign.

The fight simmered until late last year, when Rep. House Speaker Bill Batchelder wrote a letter blasting DeWine’s leadership and all but calling on him to step aside. Backers of Kasich and DeWine waged spirited clashes for the state central committee on the March ballot, and both camps claimed the primary brought their side a majority on that committee, which elects the chairman.

The question of which will have enough votes will be decided in a meeting on April 13. DeWine has announced he won’t run for re-election when his term ends in December.

But some party insiders want him to step aside now.

Doug Preisse is the chair of the Franklin County Republican Party and a close ally of Gov. Kasich. He’s leading the call for DeWine’s ouster.

“This certainly is not a power grab by anyone – not one officeholder, not one governor, not one faction even. It’s just been pretty clear over the last better than a year that somehow there has not been the coming together, the coalescing of all of those factions.”

“And that’s why this isn’t kind of creating a problem – this is trying to solve a pre-existing condition,” Preisse says.

Preisse says there isn’t one person who’s been singled out as DeWine’s replacement, but says it won’t be him. While he’s spoken about the situation before, DeWine isn’t doing interviews now. And while this has been characterized as a battle between Gov. Kasich and Chairman DeWine, Kasich maintains – as he has several times – that he’s not following the events within the Ohio GOP.

“I don’t, I’m not focused on that today. I got too many things that I’m doing here, and this has never been something I spend my time thinking much about,” Kasich says.

The chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party is also fighting off a challenge, just months after the party helped orchestrate the overwhelming rejection of the Republican-sponsored Senate Bill 5, the collective bargaining reform law.

Some labor unions want Chairman Chris Redfern out, and attorney and Lorain County Democratic Party vice-chair Anthony Jar-dini has announced he’ll run against Redfern, whose term ends in April.

Jar-dini echoes union concerns about what voter turnout and what he calls “strategic mistakes” in 2010 – and says Redfern’s leadership is not what beat back Senate Bill 5 in 2011.

“I don’t think anybody should kid themselves. Were it not for the private and public sector labor organizations in the state and really throughout the country coming together and providing resources, we might not have had that sort of an outcome,” Jar-dini says.

Jardini also says he’s concerned about a potential conflict of time and interest in the likely event that Redfern is elected to the Ohio House this fall.

Redfern isn’t doing interviews, but said through a statement “I am glad to enjoy the overwhelming support of the State Central Committee Members and organized labor in Ohio and look forward to the reorganizational meeting in April. Like with any large organization, we as Democrats have disagreements over time but will move forward to unite and come together despite any differences within the family.”

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