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Ohio Republican Party chair faces challenge from 'pro-Trump, conservative base'

Ohio Republican Party Chair Bob Paduchik (center) answers a question at a City Club of Cleveland forum, alongside Ohio Democratic Party Chair Liz Walters. The event in January 2022 was moderated by Andy Chow of the Statehouse News Bureau (left).
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Ohio Republican Party Chair Bob Paduchik (center) answers a question at a City Club of Cleveland forum, alongside Ohio Democratic Party Chair Liz Walters. The event in January 2022 was moderated by Andy Chow of the Statehouse News Bureau (left).

With less than three months until a major statewide election, the vice chair of the Ohio Republican Party is challenging the chair, saying the conservative wing of the party is frustrated with the chair’s leadership.

Summit County Republican Party Chair Bryan Williams had harsh words for Ohio Republican Party Chair Bob Paduchik. Paduchik, who was senior adviser on former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign and a former national party co-chair, has run the Ohio GOP for a year and a half.

“A pro-Trump, conservative base has been suppressed by maneuver after maneuver, both at committee meetings and outside of committee meetings, by Bob. And they're mad, they're angry, and I'm among them. We are kind of mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore," Williams said. "And the sooner we can fix this, the sooner we can get focused on winning the elections in November.”

Williams supported Paduchik as chair in February 2021, whenJane Timken left to run for U.S. Senate. But Williams said he and others have concerns about Paduchik as the party's leader.

“Many of them stem around Bob's setting aside the bylaws of the party and operating as an autocrat, making decisions on his own, not keeping us informed with finances and excommunicating us if we ask questions that he doesn't appreciate or he feels are threatening," Williams said.

Among other things, Williams disagreed with the party’s decision to endorse candidates in the May primary. At its meeting in February, the Ohio GOP endorsed candidates in all major races but U.S. Senate, which featured its former chair Timken among the seven candidates vying for the nomination. JD Vance was eventually endorsed by former president Trump, and went on to win the nomination.

But Williams does not allege misspent money at the Ohio Republican Party, though others have. And Paduchik said those are "crazy allegations".

Paduchik’s spokesman Dan Lusheck said in a statement: "We are 69 days away from a historic general election. With so much on the line, Chairman Paduchik is singularly focused on electing Republicans up and down the ticket."

The Ohio GOP’s next meeting is September 9. Williams said, "Ohio law prescribes that after a primary election, which we had in August 2, that the committee at its first meeting will elect its officers so that that new committee and that new committee majority can have the chairman of their choice, not the chairman of the last committee's choice." But he said he's aware that Paduchik may not agree.

An agenda provided by Lusheck lists no vote to elect a chair.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Democratic Party re-elected Liz Walters in a virtual "reorganizational meeting" on Tuesday night. Walters was serving the rest of the term that David Pepper left when he resigned from the chair role at the end of 2020.

Walters said in a statement: "Ohio Democrats have made meaningful progress over the last two years, and I’m honored to help lead the party toward four more years of continued success. With the help of our stakeholders, partners and candidates, the Ohio Democrats will continue to be laser-focused on investing in working families, showing voters we’re on their side and winning up and down the ballot."

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.