Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Divided GOP plays nice at Butler County event



By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Ohio State Auditor Betty Montgomery greets a table full of Mike Fox supporters Tuesday during the annual Butler County GOP picnic.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
HAMILTON - At a time when Butler County Republicans are squabbling publicly and facing contentious primary races, GOP leaders preached teamwork and cooperation Tuesday at the party's second annual picnic.

With Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery and Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro in attendance, about 400 Republicans sat peaceably with each other at the Butler County Fairgrounds and ate fried chicken, baked beans, deviled eggs and other pot-luck picnic dishes.

"What's important," Joe Schwarz, executive chairman of the county Republican Party, told the gathering, "is that when the (primary election) races are over, the party rally around the winner."

Most of the discord among Butler Republicans centers around controversial County Commissioner Mike Fox. Party leaders recently decided to oppose Fox's re-election bid next year by supporting Ohio Rep. Greg Jolivette for the GOP nomination for Fox's seat.

Fox's combative style, which has led him to publicly criticize some Republican office-holders, has angered GOP leaders. They were especially upset when Fox issued a scathing report earlier this year criticizing the practices and policies of Butler County's Domestic Relations and Juvenile courts. Those courts' judges are Republicans.

Fox and Jolivette, who replaced Fox in the Ohio House when Fox became a commissioner six years ago, will compete for the Republican Party's endorsement in late October and will square off against each other in the March 2 primary election.

Another potentially divisive Republican primary race pits state Rep. Gary Cates against Butler County Commissioner Courtney Combs for an Ohio Senate seat.

Inside the hall where the Tuesday's picnic was held, Fox supporters passed out blue campaign T-shirts on one side of an aisle, while Jolivette's supporters passed out orange campaign T-shirts on the other.

In their speeches, Montgomery and Petro both shifted the focus from the local elections to next year's presidential race.

They talked about Republicans' strength in growing Butler County and urged the crowd to support President Bush.

Montgomery said in an interview that she has seen divisive Republican primary races in many Ohio counties.

"Butler County has a lot of talent," she said. "You hope the party comes together when the candidate is chosen."

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com




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