The Ohio Republican Party has a new leader.
Matt Borges, who has chaired the party for nearly four years, has been replaced with Stark County attorney, party official and fundraiser Jane Timken, who had the backing of President Elect Donald Trump. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports.
The showdown came after some public scuffles between Matt Borges and Trump’s Ohio campaign during the election. But it didn’t happen quickly. There were two rounds of voting by the members of the state central committee, with Timken having one more vote than Borges yet still not having a majority. Finally – a behind the scenes deal was proposed to put Timken in charge. As the first woman to head the Ohio Republican Party, Timken says she’s excited about her new job.
“I think it’s important to have a female in this leadership position. I think it’s a historic moment. But I think that I’m the person who is going to take this party to a new level and have great success.”
It’s not exactly like Borges didn’t have success of his own.
“When you think about the statewide sweep in 2014, bring a national convention to Ohio for the first time in 80 years, hosting the first Republican debate, then a statewide sweep again in 2016, I don’t know how I could put any more of my heart and soul into succeeding.”
The behind the scenes deal resulted in a new job for Borges. He’ll be the first Chair Emeritus.
“I don’t think I’m out. I think I’m here. I think I’m helping and I’m going to be part of a continued success of the Republican party in this state and I’m pleased to be.”
When asked about his new role with the party and what it would entail, Borges said details are still being worked out on that. Timken didn’t elaborate either.
Timken “I think those are some of the details and we will see how that role plays out and there’s nothing final I can give you right now on that.”
Ingles “Was there anything you talked about, any of his skills that you talked about that you would like him to bring in an advisory capacity or something like that?”
Timken “Matt and I had some private conversations and I’m going to keep them private.”
Many who voted for Timken say they think Borges brought success to the party. But for Timken supporter Bob Murphy of the Cleveland area, the issue was loyalty. He noted Gov. John Kasich has been a strong backer of Borges while President Elect Donald Trump wanted Timken.
“He has a big job to do in this country to get this country straightened out and if Ohio doesn’t get in line or get on the Trump train then in the long run, we are going to pay. And it’s going to hurt President Trump because then the Democrats will play that. They’ll play that card against Trump because he doesn’t have Ohio.”
In the days and hours leading up to the vote, both Kasich and Trump talked to committee members to try to get them to support their respective candidates. Sue Rodman of the Cleveland area says she got one of those calls from Trump.
“He asked me what I thought of his appointees. And we shared that. And then he did tell me that he was supporting Jane Timken. But we had a conversation like he was across the street. He’s a wonderful, wonderful person.”
Republican State Auditor Dave Yost urged Central Committee members to take the pragmatic approach and stand behind Borges.
“Yes, the risk of change can be a necessary one if the organization is failing in its work but that is not the case at the ORP. We are winning elections in an epic level with Matt’s leadership.”
Yost and others who’d backed Borges tweeted statements after the vote showing support for Timken as the new chair.
The battle for leadership of the Ohio Republican Party has been intensified in recent months. Borges was heavily criticized by some Republicans for his tepid support of Trump and his overwhelming support of Kasich. But Kasich is a big reason Borges was in that role in the first place. Not long after Kevin DeWine ushered in a complete sweep of Republicans in state government in 2010, he was ousted as chair by Kasich supporters. Borges eventually took over. Now his role in the party is minimized while the Ohio GOP forges ahead into the uncharted territory of the 2018 U.S. Senate race, as well as key Ohio legislature races. And that leaves the question of whether Timken can make Ohio red again.