Former state rep gets GOP endorsement over the incumbent

Incumbent State Rep. Wes Retherford and challenger Courtney Combs agreed that whoever won the Butler County Republican Party endorsement, the other would not run against him for the 51st Ohio House District seat.

The party endorsed Combs Tuesday night at the first of two endorsement meetings happening this month at Tori’s Station in Fairfield.

Combs said that he “never ran against a county endorsement, and I never will” during the endorsement process. To which Retherford replied: “Ditto.” Later, Retherford added that he will “abide by the wishes of the district.”

Combs said of his endorsement by Republican Party members that reside in the district that he “believes that it goes back to grassroots politics.”

“I’ve been in many years, and I’ve been involved in a lot of campaigns, and you just can’t beat talking with the constituents and the people that have the vote. And when you talk with them directly one to one, and you get their endorsement — which I did here tonight — it just means everything in the world,” said Combs of his party endorsement for the same seat he held for eight years before term limits forced him out of office at the end of 2012.

Combs received 64 percent of the endorsement vote of those Republican Party members who live in the 51st Ohio House District.

Retherford, who succeeded Combs in representing the district that includes Hamilton, Fairfield and Ross Twp., declined to comment after the endorsement meeting but said Wednesday that he is “talking with family, supporters and praying about what will be the best for my district.”

In the other contested race, Middletown City Councilman Joe Mulligan won the party’s endorsement for the 53rd Ohio House District seat. The seat is currently held by State Rep. Tim Derickson, R-Hanover Twp., who will be forced out of office due to term limits. Derickson will seek the party’s nomination for the 8th Ohio District Congressional seat along with fellow party member Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds.

Mulligan said he’s “humbled” by the support and is looking forward to running in the March primary and November general election.

“We’ll continue to get out and meet the voters in all parts of the district,” he said about door-to-door campaigning and attending various events in the district.

Candice Keller, also a candidate for the 53rd District seat, said she wasn’t surprised by Mulligan’s endorsement “because this is Butler County.” Though she reportedly said during the endorsement meeting she would not run against Mulligan if he won endorsement, Keller told the Journal-News afterwards she will “have to meet with her campaign committee to discuss” over the next couple of days if she will continue her campaign bid.

“I’m not discouraged at all. I’m not surprised, I’m not perplexed. This is just politics,” Keller said.

The Butler County GOP will hold the month’s second endorsement meeting on Dec. 8 for the candidates for the 8th Congressional District.

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