Tea party effort to take over state GOP fails

Most insurgents who ran for party seats lost.

An effort by tea party-inspired insurgents to take over the Ohio Republican Party’s state central committee failed Tuesday when Republican voters re-elected most of the incumbent central committee members.

“What a night for the Ohio Republican Party,” said Matt Borges, state party chair. “John Kasich beats Donald Trump, our endorsed candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court wins handily, and the vicious assault on our state committee gains no ground.”

Of the dozens of contested races, just three central committee members were defeated by independent challengers, party spokeswoman Brittany Warner said.

The state GOP central committee is made up of one man and one woman elected to two-year terms by primary voters in the state’s 33 senate districts. The committee runs the state party, choosing the chairman, endorsing candidates, funding campaigns and representing the official face of the party.

The anti-establishment insurgents' effort to take over the party mirrors the national rise of anti-establishment fervor in the presidential race and in Congress.

Only 11 of the committee’s 66 seats were uncontested. The state party made extra efforts to secure victories for incumbents in 10 or 12 races, said Warner. Those incumbents included the party’s most senior committee member, Patrick Flanagan, a Dayton attorney and former Montgomery County GOP chairman who was challenged by Ben Jones of Butler Twp.

Jones lost, as did his wife, Christy Jones, who ran against incumbent Judy Westbrock of Centerville.

Earlier this year Ben Jones made news when he posted comments suggesting that President Barack Obama’s testicles be cut off. After first saying Obama was his target, Ben Jones later said he was directing the comment at the U.S. defense secretary, not the president. The Joneses could not be reached for comment.

The state party also opposed an effort by Springboro Tea Party founder Brian “Sonny” Thomas of Warren County to unseat former congressman Bob McEwen on the committee. Thomas lost.

Another incumbent committee member and former congressman, Steve Austria of Beavercreek, was endorsed by the state party and successfully fought off a challenge from David Rich.

Kelly Kohls, a former Springboro school board member who failed to unseat former state representative Michelle Schneider in Warren County, said the insurgents’ effort was not a total loss because it put party leaders on notice.

“We are watching,” said Kohls. “I’m not willing to say that we did anything wrong. I’m willing to say we accomplished about half of our goal and we are going to continue to the same goal.

“What we want is to bring the Republican Party back to its platform,” she said. “We want the Republican Party to follow its own bylaws.”

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