Editor’s Note: Beth Lear is a member of the Delaware County Republican Central Committee
There are rules that the political parties follow at the county and state level – written and unwritten. In Delaware County, one unwritten rule prohibits non-partisan candidates from getting official Republican party support. Local candidates for positions such as township trustee or school board historically have not been eligible for endorsement by the Delaware County Republican Central Committee.
However, the last two local election cycles have been different. Some Republicans running for non-partisan offices received a distinct advantage over fellow Republicans – bulk mail rates and the appearance of an official endorsement from the Ohio Republican Party – courtesy of the Delaware County Republican Party Chair. One of those candidates who received the advantage from the Chair was the Chairman himself, Karl Gebhardt.
Gebhardt and his fellow trustee Connie Goodman received the discount mail service from the Ohio Republican Party (ORP) for their Genoa Township Trustee race in 2017. They had an opponent, another Republican, Renee Vaughan. None of the candidates were endorsed by the Republican Party, but voters received mail marked “paid for by the Ohio Republican Party” for Goodman and Gebhardt and not for Vaughan. Gebhardt and Goodman received the advantage of an inferred endorsement and less costly mail.
This year the Chairman is again providing preferential treatment for some republicans in non-partisan races. Bryan Newell, a trustee candidate in Liberty Township, is benefitting from the Ohio Republican Party’s “indicia” – the stamp for the bulk mail rate. He has two opponents, one registered Democrat and one registered Republican. Only Newell is receiving the financial advantage and the appearance of an endorsement. When Scott Donaldson, a Conservative Republican running for trustee against Newell, asked the ORP for the same access, he was told that only the Central Committee Chair could approve him, and so he was denied.
Rumors from Liberty Township suggest at least one other candidate in a non-partisan race this fall is receiving the same privilege. Jon Bennehoof, the current mayor of Powell, is alleged to be benefitting from the less costly ORP mail in his race for city council. Of the six council candidates, from which voters choose three, one is a Democrat and all others are registered Republicans.
In an email statement to The Ohio Star Gebhardt wrote, “I appreciate the ORP’s assistance in helping to defeat democrats at the local level and to help elect Republicans, which will go a long way in building the party’s bench of future elected Republican officials.”
When asked about the situation, one Delaware County Republican Central Committee member who did not wish to be named told The Ohio Star, “This doesn’t fit with the mission of the central committee. We’re here to help elect Republican candidates, not have the Chairman handpick his own people. This may be legal, but I don’t think it should be and it certainly isn’t ethical. It’s not fair to the rest of the central committee who have no chance to weigh in on these races and this is very deceptive, making it appear to voters that someone is endorsed by the party when they are not.”
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