Butler County GOP chairman resigns

Kern: ‘I ran for this position to fight Democrats and Obama … and not to herd quarreling Republicans’

Dave Kern resigned his post as executive chairman six months before his four-year term was set to expire, citing frustration with Republican infighting. In a resignation email to the GOP membership, Kern, who is also a Liberty Twp. trustee, said he plans to “return to my family, church, township and farm.”

“I ran for this position to fight Democrats and (President Barack) Obama … and not to herd quarreling Republicans,” Kern told the Journal-News in an interview Tuesday. “Every party has them … it’s just not my cup of tea.”

County Republicans will now begin the search for an interim executive chairman. Though it was unclear Tuesday who that might be, a few names from within the party have surfaced.

Central Committee chairwoman Judy Shelton said, in her opinion, a change in leadership won’t have a big impact on the party.

“The party is a very, very large group of people and (Kern) is just one individual,” Shelton said. “I think we’ll rally around that person (the interim chairman), who ever it is.”

Some county Republicans who were disappointed with Kern’s leadership are applauding his resignation. Kern has shouldered much of the criticism for the GOP’s recent financial struggles, which included party funds being at their lowest level in years and moving its headquarters out of a high-rent space at Bridgewater Falls shopping plaza in Fairfield Twp.

Still, others in the GOP say they have been satisfied with Kern’s 3-plus years leading the party.

Executive Committee member Carl Rullmann called Kern’s resignation “disappointing” as he has “a lot of respect for Dave.”

“He has been under pressure,” Rullmann said. “I haven’t really seen it, but I have to assume he has with a lot of the things I’ve been reading.”

Rullmann wouldn’t give names of people that could be the next executive committee chair, but said he “could support a small number of people, and there’s a small number of people I couldn’t support.”

“Any time there’s a change and it’s a top leadership position, it could be a (turning point),” said Rullmann, a West Chester Twp. Tea Party member.

Candice Keller, chair of the Middletown region of the GOP, said he was glad to see Kern step down.

“Dave Kern leaves the Butler County GOP with a legacy of failed leadership,” Keller said. “Mr. Kern’s refusal to do the hard work of fund-raising for our party has left us with no party. The Butler County GOP is resilient, and we will rebuild the party we had prior to Dave’s failed leadership.”

The now-former chairman had been under scrutiny this year as the Journal-News reported this summer how the GOP funds were at their lowest levels in years and high-dollar contributions weren’t coming in, and how the GOP moved from its office space at Bridgewater Falls — leaving early from its lease — to Stony Run Enterprises on Old Oxford Road in Hanover Twp.

Recently, Kern was at the center of an issue questioning why two elections employees worked part-time hours but received full-time benefits. Fellow Board of Elections members questioned Kern’s tactics about going public with a letter from the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office that was protected under attorney-client privilege. Board members were also critical of Kern for not bringing the issue to the board’s attention first.

Kern said he felt “a duty to the citizens” to “blow the whistle on this practice.”

Kern’s seat on the executive committee expires within 30 days after the May 6 primary when all central committee members are on the ballot. Spurlock said the party will reorganize within 30 days of the primary election to elect a central committee chair and the central committee officers.

Kern will remain a member of the Butler County Republican Party’s central committee, but the succession process is still being worked out.

Shelton, who serves on the Butler County Board of Elections with Kern, said she told Kern she understood if he wanted to leave early.

“I was very surprised (he resigned) considering we are so close to reorganization in May. It did catch me off guard,” Shelton said. “We’ll just move forward. We’ll look to elect a new chairman.”

Shelton said she will talk with the parliamentarians on the Central and Executive committees about filling the seat until the May reorganization meeting. She said one possibility is to have an election to the seat prior to the Jan. 7 endorsement meeting.

“What will have to happen is people will have to put their names in to be considered,” said Shelton, who added she will not vie for the spot.

Shelton said Kern’s leadership of the party may not have been supported by everyone, adding “each person has a different style of leadership. I believe Dave Kern is a good man, that he’s a true Republican. I believe his leadership was based upon his beliefs. I can’t fault him. It would be wrong for me to say his style would be unacceptable…. We each try to do what we think is best for the party.”

Moving ahead, Kern said he hopes the party “will continue to embrace fiscal restraint and be the party of principle.”

Meanwhile, Butler County Democrats pointed to Kern’s resignation as “just another example of the turmoil within the GOP.” Kathy Wyenandt, central committee chairwoman of the Butler County Democratic Party, said county residents deserve better.

“While Republicans in Butler County and nationally continue to fight amongst themselves, Democrats are fighting to help working families struggling under Gov. (John) Kasich and Republicans in Columbus,” Wyenandt said. “Regardless of who leads the Butler County Republican Party, Democrats remain united in our goal of defeating Kasich and his Republican cronies in Columbus in 2014.”

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