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COLUMBUS -- In what was viewed as a rebuke of Gov. John Kasich's failure to support President-elected Donald Trump's candidacy last year, members of the Ohio Republican Party's state central committee on Jan. 6 named Stark County attorney Jane Murphy Timken as the new head of the state party.
She's the first woman elected to to the post.
"I think that this is a historic moment," she told reporters afterward. "But I think most importantly I'm the person that's going to take this party to a new direction and have great success."
The move came after two votes failed to garner enough support for either incumbent Chairman Matt Borges or his challenger and a closed-door meeting between Borges and Timken and their supporters.
In the end, Borges removed his name from consideration, and committee members, by a unanimous voice vote, named Murphy as chairwoman.
"I am grateful and humbled and honored to serve as your chairman of the Ohio Republican Party," Timken said following the vote. "I know that this has been an arduous process, but I think this is the right path forward. I promise to be a good steward of the resources of the Ohio Republican Party."
Borges will continue to have a role with the party, being named "chairman emeritus" during Friday's meeting. He said specifics of that position have yet to be determined, though he would work to help Timken during the transition.
"I'm extraordinarily pleased about the effort for unity for the Republican Party," he told reporters. "As I think you all know, the Republican Party is one of my passions and it's something I love and care deeply about. And so the opportunity today to bring us closer together, to bring John Kasich and Donald Trump closer together and to make sure that we emerge from this process a united party moving forward was something that was extremely important to me."
Sixty-five of 66 members of the state central committee were on hand for the secret-ballot vote.
Trump vs. Kasich
The contest marked the aftermath of a messy 2016 election campaign, with Kasich declining to back Trump's candidacy.
"In the weeks and two months prior to presidential election, [Borges] fell prey to uncertainty," said Sarah Brown, an Alliance Republican and member of the state central committee, who backed Timken Jan. 6. "And that is not the kind of leadership that a political leader must demonstrate. Fortunately, Mr. Trump carried this state. I think he could have probably carried by even more had the voice of leadership at the head of the Ohio Republican Party been stronger."
Committee members received thousands of messages from supporters of both candidates -- Republican Jim Dicke said he received 20 emails and 3,200-plus letters, many of which were form letters.
Some committee members reportedly received calls directly from Trump. Kasich told reporters earlier in the week that he made calls to members urging votes for Borges.
But Timken downplayed the Trump-Kasich battle, saying she had grassroots support for her candidacy.
"Look at the county party chairs who were overwhelmingly in support of me," she said. "That is, I think, the unwritten story about this process. They were looking for a need for change in leadership. I think, quite frankly I think they felt a little neglected and they want some change."
During the Jan. 6 meeting, supporters of each candidate offered brief comments, followed by speeches by Borges and Timken.
David Goodman, who heads the state's Development Services Agency, offered Borges' nomination. He praised Borges' record as chairman, spearheading continued GOP gains at the ballot box.
"He has led us to unprecedented success," he said, adding, "You don't throw away coaches or leaders like that."
Republican state Auditor Dave Yost, who didn't have a vote Friday, told attendees he planned to run for statewide office in 2018. He said Borges understands Ohio's election laws and what it takes to win.
"We face a challenging election cycle in 2018," he said. " Our party and our candidates need continuity and knowledge and experience at the helm of the ORP. And make no mistake about it: President-elect Donald J. Trump deserves the unwavering support of this party and the office-holders of this party. But will he be aided by a Republican Party that is in a rebuilding cycle in 2018?"
Borges also recounted Republican election victories under his chairmanship and the state playing host to the first Republican presidential debate and the Republican National Convention.
He urged Ohio Republicans to come together heading into the 2018 election.
"This party supports Donald Trump, our president elect, and we will moving forward," he said. "Now is the time to move the party forward together."
Brown nominated Timken, saying it's time for a change in leadership of the state party.
"I support Jane Murphy Timken because I know her to be highly qualified and worthy and her support for Donald Trump was never in question," she said. "Leadership begins at the top."
David Johnson, Columbiana County Republican Party chairman, said Timken has a proven track record of community and party leadership.
Her fundraising efforts will be important moving ahead, he said.
"If every there was somebody that was prepared to raise money for this party, it's Jane Timken," he said. "And I can assure you that has got to be one of the top priorities of this state committee."
Timken thanked Borges for his service to the party. She said she would work as a "full-time chairman," devoted to working to the entire Republican Party and its nominees.
"Our party deserves a chairman that works for the entire Republican Party," she said. "We cannot afford to have a chairman that picks and chooses which of our nominees gets our support based on opinions or outside special interests. The chairman of the Ohio Republican Party is required to fully support our nominee once the primary process is complete."
The first two rounds of voting Friday did not result in the required 34 votes needed to win the chairmanship outright -- Timken received 33 votes, while Borges received 32.
Between the first two rounds, Borges offered Timken a role, "in meaningful way," with the party moving forward, with hopes of flipping support to his chairmanship.
"Let's figure out a way to do this as a unified team," he said. "I pledge to you that I will do that My hand is extended to Jane Timken, to work with you and to move forward together."
But Borges still couldn't leverage the additional votes needed to hold his seat and opted instead to remove his name from consideration for chairman.
He opened Friday's meeting with, "We're going to have a conversation today about the leadership of our party in moving forward."
Borges told reporters afterward, "I will continue to advise the new chairman. I think she's going to do a great job. And I'm looking forward to what's next and what the next chapter might be We'll be talking more over the coming days and weeks about how we move this party forward and how me make sure we continue this run that we've been on."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.