UPDATED: New leader at GOP
Jessica Brown reports
The Hamilton County Republican Party has a new leader.
Former Chairman George Vincent turned over the job to Common Pleas Judge Alex Triantafilou during a GOP Central Committee meeting Tuesday.
Vincent in January was named managing partner of the prestigious Dinsmore & Shohl law firm. He said he simply will not be able to devote the necessary time to the party.
“To serve as party chairman in a presidential election year will take more time then I have to give,” he said.
So he said goodbye, received a standing ovation and handed off the leadership role – after a unanimous vote from the party – to Triantafilou, 36, of Green Township.
Triantafilou was thrilled to be “drafted” for the job. He said his heart is in politics and he feels he can do more good as party chairman than as judge.
“I have passion for politics,” he said. “It’s something I was frankly drafted to do and I’m excited about the challenge. It’s a challenging time to be a Republican.”
Triantafilou was referring to the Republicans losing Congress, state and local political offices in 2006 and the upcoming battle to retain the White House this year. Several local Republican-held offices are also up for election this year.
His goal: “Unite as a party and fight.” He wants “victory from the court house to the White House,” he said.
Triantafilou praised Vincent’s leadership and said his vision for the party is to “return us to our core vision of lower taxes, smaller government and public servants who are serving the public good,” he said.
Triantafilou would not address recent dissention within the local party, saying he is looking toward the future, not the past.
The party was criticized last fall by some of its own members for endorsing the jail tax. In several local Republican clubs, members were so split on the issue that the clubs offered alternate sample ballots to hand out at the polls omitting the sales tax endorsement. Some claimed the party leadership was straying from its core values.
Earlier this year, the party was criticized for a deal with the Democrats that left fewer choices on the November ballot. In the deal, Democrats agreed not to endorse a candidate to run against Republican Greg Hartmann, who is running for county commissioner. In return, Republicans agreed not to endorse a candidate against Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune who is running for re-election.
Vincent, who held the chairman job for 32 months, said there was never any real schism. He said party members “agree 95 percent of the time” and share the same core values.
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke said he will miss Vincent. “I enjoyed working with him. He had a good sense of humor though he was wrong on his political views,” Burke said. Burke said he’s heard good things about Triantafilou and looks forward to getting to know him.
Triantafilou will immediately give up his role as $121,350-a-year judge. Ohio law prevents judges from being political party chairs. He will work as an attorney at Dinsmore & Shohl and will be paid a small undisclosed salary for his role as party chairman.
Triantafilou’s move means the Republicans may lose that judgeship seat, at least temporarily. However, Triatafilou’s seat is on the November ballot. So if they lose it, they can try to get it back through the election. In the immediate future, Triantafilou’s job will be filled by retired judge Thomas Nurre in a visiting judge capacity, said Hamilton County Court Administrator Mike Walton.
Then Governor Ted Strickland will select a replacement. Triantafilou was appointed to the common pleas seat by former Gov. Bob Taft after recommendation by the local GOP.
Since Strickland is a Democrat, most expect he will select a Democrat for the seat. However he recently created an Ohio Judicial Appointments Recommendation Panel to take some of the politics out of the process. Instead of Strickland picking from a pool of people recommended by the party, an open application process will occur and the panel will recommend three applicants to Strickland. The governor can pick one of the recommendations or ask for additional names.
Tim Burke, head of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, said he expects Norma Davis and Jerry Metz, both Democrats, to be considered for appointment to Triantafilou’s seat. Both Davis and Metz are already running for other judge seats in November. Davis is currently running against Republican Pat DeWine for the seat being vacated by retiring Common Pleas Judge David Davis. Metz, an attorney, is currently challenging Common Pleas Judge Fred Nelson for Nelson’s seat.
Because the Democrats did not have anyone on the ballot for Triantafilou’s seat during the Primary election, it is unclear whether the party will be allowed to put anyone on the ballot in November. Burke is researching the issue.
Reporter Sharon Coolidge contributed
Jessica Brown reports:
Hamilton County Republican Party chairman George Vincent is expected to pass the torch today to Common Pleas Judge Alex Triantafilou.
Vincent was named managing partner of the prestigious Dinsmore & Shohl law firm. A GOP Central Committee meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. today to name his successor. If Triantafilou, 36, of Green Township, accepts the position, he – and the party – will give up the Republican judgeship seat.
Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat would name his immediate replacement on the bench. Strickland is likely to choose a Democrat. The judgeship will be on the ballot in November so the Republicans could try to win it back then. Today’s meeting takes place at the Hilton Netherland Plaza downtown.