With less than three weeks until the May 6 primary election, the leader of the Delaware County Republican Party (DCRP) is calling for a candidate to withdraw from a contested race for a county commissioner seat.
Bob Mann, chairman of the party’s central committee, has asked Delaware County Commissioner Ken O’Brien to drop out of the race, citing the fact the party will be legally required to select a successor for O’Brien if he wins the seat.
“Despite having nearly three years remaining in your term, you have chosen to run for the seat being vacated by Commissioner Dennis Stapleton, thereby running for an office you already hold,” Mann wrote in a letter sent to O’Brien Thursday. “Most voters I speak with are completely unaware that you are and will remain a county commissioner whether or not they vote for you in the May Republican primary.”
O’Brien and Stapleton are serving different terms. O’Brien’s current term is set to expire in 2016. The term he is currently running for would not expire until 2018.
Mann told The Gazette he did not formally ask O’Brien to drop out of the race sooner because he hoped O’Brien would take the initiative himself. But with early voting underway, Mann said he felt the time was right.
“I was hoping that Ken on his own would do the right thing and get out of the race,” he told The Gazette. “I just didn’t feel like I could wait any longer.”
Through conversations with voters, Mann said he learned many people are confused by O’Brien’s candidacy. If O’Brien wins the three-way primary in May and prevails in the November general election, the DCRP will select his replacement.
“A vote for you is in reality a vote to have the Republican Central Committee, rather than the voters of Delaware County, elect the next county commissioner,” Mann said.
In response to the request, O’Brien said he has no intention of dropping out of the race.
“With all due respect, Mr. Chairman, you do not have the right to interfere with the electoral process by requesting that I withdraw simply because you prefer one candidate over another,” he wrote to Mann, who has endorsed Genoa Township Trustee Barb Lewis in the race.
He also slammed Mann for his “interference” in the race and called for his resignation as chairman of the party.
“Your interference with the current primary race for Commissioner and sending campaign-related materials to my office at the Board of Commissioners are highly inappropriate and, in my opinion, do not meet the standard of leadership you have set for others,” he wrote to Mann. “Given these failures and the record you have developed over the past several years, I would request that you resign your position as Chairman of this Party immediately.”
O’Brien accused Mann of a lack of leadership in fixing what he believes to be a “fragmented” economic development process “dominated by isolated meetings with only select individuals, little to no sharing of information with all of the parties involved, and legislation or actions which have resulted in little or poor economic development that benefits what appears to be the political supporters of those endorsing such projects.”
O’Brien faces Lewis and businessman Mike Kelley in the May 6 primary.