LEWIS CENTER, Ohio (AP) — Republicans chose President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for the next leader of their state party on Friday after the sitting chairman withdrew his name from consideration.
Matt Borges’ decision to stand down came after two rounds of voting ended in gridlock. Challenger Jane Timken of Canton, who became the Ohio GOP’s first chairwoman, had criticized Borges for failing to “fully support” Trump after he became the nominee.
Borges believed he had the votes to win before Trump intervened in favor of Timken. Some members of the powerful state central committee got phone calls from Trump on Thursday night urging their support for Timken, a big fundraiser for his campaign.
Committeeman Pat Flanagan fought back tears Friday as he said the party “loves Matt” and would do anything to support him in the future.
GOP Gov. John Kasich, who didn’t support Trump, supported Borges as chairman.
Borges, who will retain an advisory role with the party, called Friday’s events an “effort for unity.”
“The opportunity to bring us closer together, to bring Donald Trump and John Kasich 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,” he told reporters.
On the first two votes, Timken received 33 votes to Borges’ 32. One member was absent. A winning candidate needed a majority of the 66-member committee, or 34 votes. Borges withdrew his name after a closed-door meeting during a break in the proceedings.
Timken challenged Borges on grounds that he failed to “fully support” Trump, as was his obligation as chairman, after the New York billionaire won the party’s nomination. Like GOP Gov. John Kasich, Borges expressed public ambivalence about voting for Trump, especially after release of a video featuring Trump making lewd and aggressive comments about women.
“Leadership begins at the top,” said Committeewoman Sarah Brown in recommending Timken. “As is stated in I Corinthians, 14:8, ‘For if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?’ Jane Murphy Timken’s trumpet will never give an uncertain sound.”
Committeewoman Susan Rodman was among those who got a call from Trump. She said she also received a call from Kasich, who was among dozens — maybe hundreds — of callers trying to sway her vote.
“You can’t believe who’s calling, from California to New York City to D.C. to Baltimore. I had a call from Florida,” said Rodman, who supported Timken.
Rodman and others uniting behind Timken, many of whom supported Kasich’s unsuccessful presidential bid, said they were concerned when Borges failed to stand completely behind Trump after Kasich dropped out and Trump became the nominee.
“After the convention, it’s the party, it’s the country,” Rodman said.
Borges tried to reassure the committee that he would involve Timken and support Trump, but his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. His candidacy had been supported by Kasich, many of whose strongest supporters sit on the central committee.
Timken’s followers called her well-informed, smart and energetic. She told the group she would work full time at the job.
“A family sometimes has disagreements, and that is natural — and even healthy,” she told the group before her win. “Once the central committee members make their decision today, we must present a united front with a common goal of electing Republicans.”