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Weeks after big election win, Ohio Republicans pick fourth party chair in six years

Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou is sworn in as the head of the Ohio Republican Party right after his election on January 6, 2023.
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou is sworn in as the head of the Ohio Republican Party right after his election on January 6, 2023.

While many political junkies have been watching the fights over Republican leadership in Washington, members of the Ohio GOP were deciding on a new leader.

And after hours of debate, the fractured Ohio Republican Party's central committee chose a new leader and adopted a new resolution that was introduced hours before the vote for chairman, won by Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou.

That resolution was a stinging rebuke of 22 Ohio House Republicans who, earlier this week teamed up with all 32 of the Democrats in that chamber to elect Jason Stephens (R- Kitts Hill) as speaker over Derek Merrin (R-Monclova). Merrin had won the backing from the GOP caucus in November. So the move came as a surprise and angered many Republicans, including some on the Ohio Republican Party's central committee.

What happened earlier this week in the Ohio House played a role in what happened in the vote for the party's chair today. Triantafilou was chosen over three other candidates, including the party’s former vice chair Bryan Williams. He was the sponsor of that aforementioned resolution that censures the House Republicans who joined forces with Democrats to back Merrin. The censure said the 22 Republicans who voted for Stephens earlier this week dishonored the party and empowered House Democrats. It's not the first time Williams has taken on some members of his party. Last year, Williams challenged outgoing chair Bob Paduchik over questions about finances and leadership, but the party didn’t decide to vote then. In the end, committee members decided to adopt a changed version of Williams' resolution. The original plan would have prevented the party from providing the 22 Republicans with endorsements or financial support but those penalties were removed during Friday's meeting. But before adopting that censure, the committee first decided to elect Triantafilou to the top post.

Triantafilou is the Ohio GOP's fourth party chair since 2017, when Jane Timken took over as then-President Trump's hand-picked successor after ousting Matt Borges. Timken stepped down in 2021 to run for US Senate, and Paduchik became the party's leader.

The party has struggled with lawsuits filed by members over party finances, and with frustration by some over endorsements issued before the May primary last year. Some party members have alleged secret meetings and behind-the-scenes maneuvers both by Paduchik and by those who attempted to remove him.

Triantafilou says his goal is to unite the party and told members he works for them. He's said the next big battle the party will take on is unseating longtime Democratic US Senator Sherrod Brown, who is up for re-election in 2024. Brown beat Republican Jim Renacci by nearly 7 points in 2018.

The committee passed a different measure earlier in the day to support a resolution the Ohio Board of Education approved last month that pushes back on a new Biden administration change to Title IX that seeks to protect LGTBQ+ students from discrimination. That policy change asks schools to investigate sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination under Title IX, including against trans students, and suggests federal funding could be withheld otherwise. Republicans say their resolutions support parents and school districts.

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