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Ohio Republican Party Has a New Leader

The Ohio Republican Party is returning to familiar leadership. As expected, former long time Chairman Bob Bennett has officially been sworn in to that post earlier today.

Kevin DeWine had a good track record when it comes to winning elections.  Since 2009 when he had taken the helm from long time party chair Bob Bennett, DeWine had overseen the total sweep of state government in 2010, leading the party of candidates that won every statewide office, and won the Ohio legislature and Ohio Supreme Court. 

But when Governor Kasich came into office in 2010, his backers started a campaign to oust DeWine so Kasich could have his own person in charge of the party.  And so, for the past few months, there’s been a nasty battle that’s divided Republican leaders, leading DeWine to step down.  At a meeting of the Republican State Central Committee, DeWine made his final remarks as Chairman.  And a familiar face immediately replaced him.  Bob Bennett was, once again, sworn in as leader of the Ohio Republican Party, and will serve for at least a couple of years.

Bennett - "I can assure you that I’m not beginning a career as a long time chairman of the party but I will work on behalf of the ticket until the end of 2014."

Bennett says, after the election this fall, the state committee will start considering who they might want to be the next leader of the party.  He said unity is key right now.

Bennett – "It got off track in 2010 during the election for whatever reason and it’s a bump in the road for the Republican party."

But Bennett says there’s more to the decision than DeWine’s record.  Bennett says it’s important for the party to get behind Governor Kasich where the party is concerned.

Bennett – "I understand that people are sometimes fearful of change but he’s getting a lot of good changes in this state that will set this state on course for our children and grandchildren.  I really believe that.  I encouraged John to run for Gov because I thought he had the ability.  He’s a risk taker, just like Jim Rhodes, in traveling the state and concentrating on what’s important to turn this economy around here."

Bennett says it’s time for the state’s Republicans to put this party squabble to rest and unify.  And he thinks that’s already happening.

Bennett – "There’s no question the committee is unified.  I was pleased we had a reception last night and the new committee members and the old committee members showed up.  And it was peace and harmony last night."

But there were signs of stress during the meeting.  At one point, outgoing leader DeWine joked that he was leaving, though not fast enough for some people.  And when the committee was asked to unanimously allow DeWine to represent the Ohio Republican Party on the national convention committee, there was one member of the committee who loudly shouted “no” during the vote.  Doug Priesse, a strong ally of Governor Kasich who wanted DeWine to step down, said don’t make too much of that.

Priesse – "That was one member, for whatever reason, wanted to bark about that. But frankly I thought it was a resounding and positive sign that there was a strong vote of confidence for Kevin to serve the remainder of that national committee spot.  So I was delighted to second it.  He was gracious in the transition."

Republican Bob Bennett admitted that members of his party have been split over leadership, and Republicans statewide were split over who they want the Republican Presidential nominee to be.  But he said make no mistake, there is one thing that unifies his party - defeating Democratic President Barack Obama in November.