COLUMBUS, Ohio – The campaign of Joe Blystone seeking to wrest the GOP gubernatorial nomination from incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) has lost numerous county and regional leaders and a co-campaign manager since early July due to what those leaving describe as a disorganized campaign and a disrespectful candidate.

A list of former staffers provided to The Ohio Star included seven regional leaders overseeing a few to several counties and another nine county leaders.

“The core of his campaign staff have either been fired or quit,” writes Jeff Seibert, the former southwest Ohio regional leader, in an August 4 email to other staffers and ex-staffers announcing his resignation.

Later in the email, he writes, “Joe does not like to be questioned, he doesn’t like to hear anything unpleasant; only what he wants to here.”

Sarah Chambers, the former co-campaign manager, said she quit July 7 after seeing Blystone disrespect too many “good-hearted” volunteers. She added that the campaign also remains unorganized in terms of responsibilities.

“I think the campaign is imploding because things aren’t being done right,” Sarah Chambers of Westerville tells The Star. “People are continuing to fall off daily.”

She adds, “I saw too many people treated wrongly. There’s no integrity there.”

Chambers told of a Hardin County event where the campaign hoped to serve alcohol, but they didn’t have time to get the required liquor permit. Blystone overruled her suggestion, they postponed the event until a permit could get obtained.

“Yes, I just threw you under the bus,” Chambers said Blystone told her.

Former regional leader Setys Kelly said the boundaries of her multi-county territory kept changing, and the events she’d arrange would get canceled after getting approval from headquarters.

One event, she said, required a $500 refundable deposit, money the campaign decided not to provide despite the prospect of raising more than that from the event.

Kelly, an experienced event planner and sales rep, also noted she was asked to get engraved promotional items for sale at events and local offices, only then to be told afterward to cancel the orders.

“Cancelled events, second guessing of decisions,” Kelly said, “and nobody is in charge to give a final answer.”

“Growing pains”

But the campaign’s current top manager dismisses the staffing issues as “growing pains” of a fast-growing grassroots organization.

Bryan Robson, a Washington Courthouse small business owner who now serves as the Blystone campaign manager, dismisses the complaints and said all political campaigns experience turnover.

“The campaign has grown so quickly, we’re overwhelmed with growing pains,” said Robson, who took over in mid-July, claiming the campaign has volunteers statewide and 200,000 followers on social media.

Like any organization, not everyone has fit in well.

“We’ve had some people who didn’t get along with others,” he said. “We also have different competencies and some people didn’t have the competency.”

Robson also discounted complaints the work environment is unfriendly.

“There’s no insidious, underlying reason people have left,” he said.

That said, Robson said he notes some former staffers have already climbed onto other campaigns or have interviewed with them. He suspects some may have been “operatives” from other campaigns seeking to spy on the Blystone efforts.

While disappointed with the Blystone campaign experience, Seibert said in his email he hopes to join the U.S. Senate primary campaign of Mike Gibbons.

A spokeswoman for that campaign said it has yet to hire any former Blystone staff members.

A spokesman for the gubernatorial campaign of Jim Renacci, who is also a declared candidate for the GOP nomination, declined to say whether the campaign had picked up any Blystone volunteers, but in an email wrote it “has continued to build up significant grassroots support in the last few weeks.”

Former Blystone campaign regional leader Kelly said she plans to vote for Blystone unless a better alternative emerges.

“I’d still vote for Joe, because I don’t want to vote for Renacci,” Kelly said.

Former Blystone co-campaign manager Chambers said she has become disillusioned in her first efforts in getting deeply involved in a political campaign spurred by her opposition to the COVID-19 policies of Gov. DeWine and other issues. “I really wanted to do something to make a difference.”

She does not think Blystone can win the gubernatorial contest.”I don’t think it will become a viable campaign,” Chambers said.

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Brian Ball is a reporter for The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Send tips to [email protected]
Photo “Joe Blystone” by Joe Blystone.