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Leadership battle emerging for control of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 5/21/2020 By Andrew J. Tobias,
a man wearing a suit and tie: Cuyahoga County Republican Party Chairman Rob Frost, seen here in a file photo from the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, is facing a leadership challenge. © Joshua Gunter, Cuyahoga County Republican Party Chairman Rob Frost, seen here in a file photo from the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, is facing a leadership challenge.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A leadership fight is brewing for control of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, with the longtime chairman facing a challenge from a well-connected local party activist.

Lisa Stickan, president of the Highland Heights council and a staff attorney for a Republican Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge, announced her plans on Thursday to challenge Chairman Rob Frost, an attorney who has led the county party since 2005.

Frost has fended off challenges before, but Stickan is perhaps his most formidable opponent yet. She is a longtime activist in Ohio Republican politics and a named delegate for President Donald Trump for this year’s Republican National Convention. She was elected to the state Republican Party’s central committee in the just-concluded primary election. Her mother, Lucy Stickan, holds a leadership position on the county party’s executive committee.

Lisa Stickan said in an interview she helped recruit a slate of candidates to the local county party central committee in the primary election, and she’s now asking them and other local Republicans for support.

County party leadership is chosen by the rank-and-file Republicans who hold elected seats on the party’s central committee.

“I think it’s time to look to a new direction in the party," Stickan said. “I have the infrastructure experience to bring to the table, but I also have some new ideas as well for a new direction, and I want to bring that forward.”

Frost said he’s running on his record helming the party, and that it’s “too important of a year" for local Republicans to change leaders.

“It’s a necessary and good exercise for us as a party to have these internal debates,” Frost said. “It helps us really refine what we need to bear down on and do well from through November 3 [Election Day] so that we win.”

The Cuyahoga GOP is scheduled to meet on Saturday, May 30 for its regular post-primary organizational meeting, with members having the option of participating remotely via Zoom, the teleconferencing software. Current party leadership is proposing casting ballots by mail for the chairmanship spot during a 30-day voting period. If committee members sign off, that means a winner wouldn’t be known until June 30.

Both candidates are making the case to committee members that their leadership of the county party will help Trump get re-elected. But the Republican Party increasingly is defined by affiliation with Trump, and Stickan has a unique card to play here.

The Trump campaign chose her as a delegate to the Republican National Convention. And while party chairs in other counties, including Ashtabula, Hamilton and Summit counties, Frost didn’t make the cut. He’s also had some friction in the recent past with state party leadership, which is close to Trump.

Bob Paduchik, a top Ohio Republican operative who holds a senior position with the Trump campaign, said the campaign doesn’t get involved with local party issues.

But when it comes to delegates, Paduchik said, “a very important factor in that is loyalty to the president and his campaign, and the ability to help him win re-election. And so that is obviously an important factor in choosing and selecting delegates.”

Frost said he’s served as a delegate to past Republican conventions, and that he plans to attend this year’s convention. His goal is the same as state and national party leaders, he said.

“I’ll be supporting President Trump to be re-nominated, and we’ll be working with the Trump campaign daily... to make sure this president gets re-elected,” he said.

While Cuyahoga County is a Democratic stronghold, it remains significant for any Republican running a statewide race in Ohio, thanks to its sheer volume of voters and presence of major GOP donors. It cast the second-most votes of any Ohio county for Trump in 2016, as well as in 2018 for Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

The county party also helps recruit candidates and organize races for state legislative seats, judicial positions and other local races.


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