With resignation of Ohio GOP chair, Summit officials to head both state parties for at least for month

With the resignation of the Ohio GOP chair, Summit County officials will head both the state parties — at least for the next month.

Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken told party leaders Friday she will resign from her position. Timken, who is married to the former CEO of TimkenSteel, is weighing in bid for the U.S. Senate.

Summit County Republican Party Chairman Bryan Williams, who held the No. 2 position in the state party, will assume Timken's seat for the next 30 days until the party chooses a new, permanent chairman.

Summit County Republican Party Chairman Bryan Williams

On the opposite side of the political spectrum, Summit County Councilwoman Elizabeth Walters was recently tapped to head the Ohio Democratic Party.

That gives Summit County a temporary preeminence in state politics it may never have enjoyed.

“That’s a little footnote in history,” said Jim Laria, the Akron Municipal Court clerk and one of the longest-serving GOP office holders in Summit County. “That’s got to be a first.” 

Laria said Williams has done a great job stepping into the county chairman position and filling the large shoes of the late, long-time party head, Alex Arshinkoff, as well as serving in the No. 2 position in the state party and now the top spot. 

“The Republican organization in Summit is still viable and strong — locally and statewide,” said Laria, who has been the Akron clerk since 1997.

The next GOP chairman will be chosen by the state party's central committee.

Jim Simon, an Akron attorney and member of that committee, said it's too soon to speculate about who this will be and whom he'll support.

"This is way too early," said Simon, a state committee member since 2012. "We've just now had the resignation. We need to see who the candidates are, then evaluate them."

Williams said Friday that he's not interested in the job on a permanent basis but knows who is — and that person also has Summit County ties.

Williams said Bob Paduchik, who is originally from Summit County and whose parents live in Tallmadge, has reached out to state committee members about interest in the seat. Paduchik, who has been involved in politics since the 1990s, has run five successful Ohio campaigns, including for U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and former President Donald Trump.

"He has quite an extensive skill set and experience and record of winning that makes him an easy candidate to support — and the right candidate," Williams said of Paduchik, who now lives in Franklin County.

If Paduchik is successful, Williams said the two state party chairs will still have a strong affinity for Summit County. Williams said Summit County has previously provided high-rank party leaders, with Ray Bliss serving as both the state and national GOP chairman.

"A lot of politics — both Democratic and Republican — run through Summit County," Williams said. "We're proud to do our part."

Jane Timken's background

Timken, 54, is among the top GOP contenders to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Portman.

Timken is an adept fundraiser, but has never run for public office and has been a largely behind-the-scenes player in state politics.

A Cincinnati native, Timken was elected to lead the party in January 2017 as the candidate backed by then-President Trump. She was re-elected to a two-year term last month.

Timken likely needed to either step down or stop deliberating a Senate campaign sooner rather than later. Party rules prohibit the chair from being an elected official and from using the office for personal gain. The committee also endorses candidates for state and federal offices, including U.S. Senate.

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In her resignation letter, Timken said it was a tremendous honor to lead the party and "stand with President Trump to make our nation great."

"Over the last four years, we have secured Ohio’s place as a leading conservative stronghold, expanded Republican leadership at every level and helped President Trump win a commanding second victory in the state," Timken wrote.

Jane Timken, Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman, speaks during President Donald J. Trump’s Make America Great Again Rally in Lebanon, Ohio, on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.

She also emphasized the Republican party is the party of Trump, a departure from comments made last month in which she emphasized the Republican party is more than "one person, one candidate, or one government official."

“President Donald J. Trump is the leader of our Party, and I am incredibly excited to continue to fight for him and the America First agenda in a new capacity going forward,” Timken wrote Friday. “I will be making an announcement about my future plans in the coming weeks, but trust me when I say I intend to build on our success and continue doing all I can to advance conservative, America First policies to strengthen Ohio."

About two hours before her resignation, Timken criticized U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Rocky River, for his vote to impeach Trump after the insurrection at the Capitol, calling the "sham impeachment" illegal. Last week, Timken told The Plain Dealer Gonzalez was "an effective legislator" and "very good person" who had "a rational reason why he voted that way."

Portman’s surprise announcement he would not seek reelection set off a flurry of politicking among Republicans and Democrats eyeing what had been considered a safe Republican seat. In addition to Timken, possible GOP contenders include former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel, U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson and Steve Stivers and business leaders including Cleveland car dealer Bernie Moreno.

On the Democratic side, former state health department director Dr. Amy Acton is mulling a run, as are U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.