Saturday, May 31, 2003

GOP calls off seat-switch

Plan to avoid battle in primary rejected by party leaders

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - The Butler County Republican Party faithful have rejected a plan for Ohio Rep. Greg Jolivette and County Commissioner Courtney Combs to switch jobs.

The party's Central Committee voted this week by more than a 2-to-1 ratio against the plan, which had been proposed by party leaders to avoid a primary election battle for Scott Nein's state Senate seat next year.

Nein must leave office because of term limits. Combs, Jolivette and Ohio Rep. Gary Cates, who must leave the House next year, are interested in running for Nein's seat.

The Central Committee members in Jolivette's district voted overwhelmingly to endorse Combs for the state representative seat. But the countywide Central Committee membership voted strongly against endorsing Jolivette for the commissioner's seat.

Joe Statzer, the party's executive director, said the Central Committee's rejection of the Jolivette endorsement did not reflect opposition to Jolivette. He said most committee members simply believed that the party's nominee for the commissioner's seat should be decided through the normal election process.

"They felt we should preserve the democratic process and not intercede by switching office-holders," Statzer said.

Party leaders will honor the committee members' wishes and drop the switch plan.

"I have the utmost respect for the Central Committee," Jolivette said. "I didn't make one phone call lobbying for the plan. I had people tell me after the meeting that they voted against the plan because they wanted to see me run for the state Senate."

Combs, who has been interested in a state political office for a long time, said he's not disappointed he won't be going to Columbus.

"I never really got overly excited about this because I didn't really know how it was going to go," he said. "I was perfectly satisfied (with being a commissioner) when this whole thing started."

West Chester Township Trustee Jose Alvarez, considered a potential GOP candidate for commissioner, said the party has "a very fair and open" candidate-screening process. He said he's glad the party has decided to allow that process to continue working.


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