Kettering Councilman and Dayton Tea Party founder Rob Scott appears to be on his way out as head of the Montgomery County Republican Party.
Old-guard party members are orchestrating his ouster just 17 months into his four-year term and plan to return former party chairman Patrick Flanagan, 75, to the job he held until the mid-1980s.
“Rob is not a capable guy to run our party,” said Don Phillips, co-owner of Mandalay Banquet Center and one of the leaders of the effort to remove Scott. “He’s probably not going to resign without a little shove.”
Scott said last month he rejected a request that he resign. It came from Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, county party precinct captain Danny Hamilton, Flanagan and Phillips.
Phillips said Scott now has told people he will resign.
On Thursday, Scott said he believes he has the votes on the party central committee to remain in the unpaid job as party head. But he backed off remarks made earlier this week that he would not step down.
“Thinking over the future of the party and that we are fractured, in order to move forward I am considering my options,” said Scott, 31, who also chairs the executive committee. “I still believe without a shadow of a doubt I would win. But I can’t see dragging the party through the mud just for me.”
Scott worked behind the scenes in 2012 to bring supporters onto the central committee and take over leadership from former chairman Greg Gantt, who decided to not seek re-election after five years at the helm. The central committee, which Plummer chairs, selected Scott, but divisions rapidly became apparent.
“I think it’s due to the business people didn’t care for him or didn’t like him,” said Phillips. “We didn’t get what we bargained for.
“He promised a year-and-a-half ago that he would be the party of the people and he hasn’t accomplished that. He said there would be transparency. And he hasn’t accomplished that.”
Opponents also say Scott has failed to find enough good candidates or succeed in winning enough elections.
Scott disagreed on both counts and said he has brought into the party new people from the Tea Party, churches and abortion opponents. He’s tried to make party fundraisers more affordable for the less affluent and encouraged women and minorities to get involved in the party, he said.
“There’s some new faces and with new faces comes, obviously, divisiveness,” Scott said. “If the Republican Party does not evolve we’re doomed.”
Scott has struggled to raise money for the party. For example, Gantt raised $25,996 for operations from July 2011 to December 2011. Scott raised $4,826 from July 2012 to December 2012.
Scott’s opponents say his inability to raise money reflects lack of support for him. Since Scott took over as chairman, contributions have dried up from large donors such as Clay Mathile — long a supporter of the party — and Teresa Huber, who gave $13,250 for operations in 2011, campaign finance reports show.
Scott blames the changing role of county parties and contributors’ desire to give directly to candidates or political groups. He said he feels fundraising should focus on money for campaigns, not operations.
“I am very proud that I ran the party on a shoestring because our purpose is to elect Republicans, not to have shiny headquarters and nice computers,” Scott said.
Plummer and Hamilton declined comment. Flanagan denied he is trying to unseat Scott and said his efforts are focused on replacing the Washington Twp. headquarters Scott closed when he took over the party. The party now uses office space in the building where Scott has his Clayton law office. It no longer has a paid executive director or bookkeeper.
“We’re going to build a headquarters one way or another and then we are going to rebuild the party,” Flanagan said.
The party has split into three factions: the old guard, new guard and the Tea Party, said party supporter Linda Coombe of Centerville.
“We all need to come together and talk it out, but I don’t see that happening. I see a lot of bickering,” said Coombe.
Former Sheriff David Vore, who lost his effort to win a county commission seat in November and now is running for Clay Township trustee, declined to say if he supports Scott.
“I believe that for the Montgomery County Republican Party to remain competitive in future election processes we need to have a unified front. And right now I don’t think we have that,” Vore said. “I do believe Rob is in a very difficult position. There are people that want some changes.”
Gantt also declined to insert himself into the fray except to note that the party has still not endorsed anyone for the November election and the meeting set to do so isn’t until next week.
“You can’t endorse anybody in September and have any impact on things,” Gantt said.
Political scientists said the county party’s battle mirrors that of the larger Republican Party, where Tea Party and libertarian factions fight with old-line party leaders.
“I really think the Republican Party as we have known it is in the midst of self-destruction,” said Paul Leonard, a political science professor a Wright State University who is the former Democratic mayor of Dayton and Ohio lieutenant governor.
Nancy Martorano Miller, associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton, said traditional Republicans are seeing a negative backlash for the party because of the divisions between Tea Party purists and the mainstream party.
“I think they really need to think about how important is the Tea Party faction to the party,” Miller said.
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