COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 66-member Ohio Republican Party’s State Central Committee will fill three open seats during its fall meeting scheduled for Friday, September 10.

But the question remains if the GOP central committee will endorse in the races for Ohio governor, attorney general and other statewide races at this meeting or allow voters in the May primary to sort out that question.

That agenda is subject to change.

The central committee will consider uncontested endorsements for three incumbent Ohio Supreme Court justices, including a veteran justice seeking to vie for chief justice in the November 2022 general election.

Justices Patrick DeWine, son of Gov. Mike DeWine, and Patrick Fischer will defend their seats on the bench while Justice Sharon Kennedy, who just won re-election in November 2020, will seek to replace Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, who is ineligible to run again.

Candidates for the 22nd District central committee declined to take positions on hot button issues of pre-primary endorsement of candidates for statewide offices and whether the GOP should financially support candidates before an endorsement or after the primary election.

Tom Weyand, a member of the Medina County Republican Party central and executive committees and interim county chairman in 2020,  said those on the central committee need to take a more active role in running the state party.

“I think the state central committee needs to get back to the policies and principles that made the Republican Party great,” said Weyand, an adviser to former congressman Jim Renacci, GOP gubernatorial nomination challenger to Mike DeWine. “That’s the job of the central committee. It’s not just one person.”

Rob Hovis, the 25-year Holmes County party chairman, said he also has yet to take a position on those controversies. The parties in Richland and Holmes counties have recommended Hovis to get appointed to the central committee to replace ailing former Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder.

“I don’t have a specific personal agenda,” Hovis said in a phone interview.

The approval of a new central committee representative in 13th District – which covers Huron and Lorain counties along Lake Erie west of Cleveland – offers no contest to Lorain County Republican Party Chairman David Arredondo.

Arradondo said he served as vice chairman for 11 years before becoming chairman in May 2020. His political activity began 20 years ago as a precint committeeman.

“It makes sense for in county party leadership to be part of the state central committee,” he said, creating a “natural connection.”

He said he also has no set agenda on pre-primary endorsements and financial support.

“I want to listen to the discussion,” he told The Ohio Star.

Contest in Central Ohio

Kipton, Ohio Mayor Bob Meilander vacated the 13th District seat in June after Ohio GOP Bob Paduchik told him elected officials could not hold central committee seats.

The 15th District seat in Franklin County became open when member Carolyn Petree recently moved to Buckeye Lake in adjacent Licking County.

Candidates for the District 15 central committee post pits Penny Martin (pictured above), a veteran Ohio Department of Development public affairs professional, against Franklin County political activist Alicia Healy.

Martin has a deep history with Mike DeWine, having served as a staff assistant from September 1997 to November 1998 during Mike DeWine’s first term as a U.S. senator and, more recently, as a public information officer in the governor’s office from August 2019 through September 2020.

According to her resume, she has worked various public information and marketing posts for the Ohio Department of Development from March 2011 to August 2019 and since last fall as chief of strategy and policy for the department.

Martin, whom the Franklin County Republican Party has recommended, did not return messages seeking comment on her candidacy.

She had served as the Ohio Republican Party’s deputy finance director from May 1999 to January 2002 and served in private-sector marketing firms in Columbus from March 2003 through March 2011.

Martin also had a short-term public relations assignment with then-Governor John Kasich in late 2011.

Healy has engaged as a candidate in two elections as a Republican as well as serving in various county party roles and posts, from handing out candidate ballot cards outside early voting locations to leading the Black Voices for (President) Trump efforts in 2020. She also had a leadership role in distributing candidate information for African-American Ruth Edmonds, a candidate in the crowded August 3 special primary for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.

Healy ran unsuccessfully for the Ohio Senate in 2010 from her urban district as well as an at-large candidate for Columbus City Council in 2009.

Healy also has served as legislative steering committee vice chair for the Franklin County Republican Party since December 2011 and as executive vice chair for the county party since December 2018.

“The Republican Party is the party of freedom and I want to be a member of the State Central Committee to help spread that message,” Healy tells The Star. “We don’t get out our message.”

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Brian R. Ball is a veteran journalist reporting for The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Send news tips to [email protected].
Photo “Penny Martin” by Penny Martin. Background Photo “State Capitol Building” by Steven Miller. CC BY 2.0.