The Butler County Republican Party again has not endorsed Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford as he seeks re-election for a fourth term.
Instead, the party went with first-time Statehouse candidate Sara Carruthers, whose family has an indelible tie with the city of Hamilton.
But Retherford, 33, said his purpose in talking before the county GOP Central Committee wasn’t to seek an endorsement.
“In my speech, I never asked for the endorsement,” he said. “In my speech, I said when you make a mistake you take full responsibility for your actions … and you learn from them.”
Retherford told this news organization earlier this month that he had not touched alcohol since his March 12, 2017, OVI arrest when he was found in the early morning hours passed out in his pickup truck parked idling in a fast-food drive-thru lane.
It took two rounds of voting for the Central Committee members in the 51st Ohio House District to endorse Carruthers, 55.
“My family and I have always been passionate about helping the people of the Hamilton, Fairfield and Ross areas. As a representative of our area in the state legislature, I believe I can do even more for our people,” she said. “I have been a conservative Republican all my life. I will be a strong, fresh voice for conservative principles and common sense values in the Ohio General Assembly.”
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Carruthers, whose family has donated time and money to various organizations around Butler County, said her goal is to make the district a better place to live and instill community pride within people.
“I love Hamilton,” said the life-long city resident. “I want to make it a place where they don’t want to leave.”
Retherford said he believed the “deck was stacked” against him the last election against former state lawmaker Courtney Combs and that it is this time against Carruthers. But he believes he has the support of the community and many within the party considering a third of the voting Central Committee members voted in favor of Retherford.
The party also did not endorse Retherford in 2012, when he was a political unknown and challenged former state lawmaker Greg Jolivette, who was later declared ineligible after not signing a page on his petitions for office.
“Considering the fact that all the cards stacked against me, my opponent should have walked away with (the endorsement),” he said.
Retherford said voters “are not buying the insider politics.”
“The county party lost every contested endorsed race they had last time around (in 2016), and I think if anything that Donald Trump’s election should be a clue that the voters are going to have their way and they’re not playing party politics anymore,” he said.
While Retherford focused his speech on a face-to-face apology to the members of the party, Carruthers talked about what she’s done for the community, including donating the upgrade of the maternity ward at Fort Hamilton Hospital.
“I know that we can do better for this area, and I intend to do everything I possibly can do to prove it,” she said. “I can also promise you this: I will never do anything to embarrass my family, my community or my party. This area holds my roots, and my heart is here, and that will never go away.”
Butler County GOP Executive Chairman Todd Hall said the party was right not to endorse Retherford two years ago. Retherford beat the endorsed Republican candidate by nearly 1,800 votes.
“The Republican Party sent a strong message Tuesday night with overwhelming endorsements of our incumbents, except in the 51st District, where Sara Carruthers was endorsed over Retherford,” Hall said. “Our party endorsed another over Retherford two years ago, and we were proven right in our assessment given his legal troubles. I think the voters of 5st District will see that Statehouse race the same way as our elected Republican Central Committee members and support our endorsed candidate in the May primary.”
The Butler County GOP’s screening committee “highly recommended” Carruthers, while Retherford was “not recommended.”
The race for the 51st District seat is not, at this point, solely between Retherford and Carruthers. Attorney Matthew Taggart has pulled petitions, as has Jolivette. Neither sought out the party’s endorsement, and Jolivette told this news organization that does not mean he’s ruled out running for this office.
Others endorsed Tuesday night include Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., and Patty Alderson, of West Chester Twp. who is seeking the State Central Committeewoman seat. Lang is unopposed, and Alderson is opposed by Harriet Lee Redkey, of West Chester Twp.
Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown did not seek the Republican endorsement, nor did her primary opponent, Roshawn Lavelle Jenkins, or Monroe.