In a letter mailed to all 66 newly elected (or re-elected) members of the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee, Bob Bennett indicated that he is ready to return to leadership.
Bennett, who chaired the party from 1988 to 2009, has been tapped to replace Kevin DeWine, who gave in to pressure from Gov. John Kasich and announced Wednesday that he will resign effective April 13. That's the date of the next state GOP central committee meeting.
"During the past few weeks I have been approached by many of you to ask if circumstances required a new chairman would I be willing to step forward and again lead the committee between now and the election as well as preparing for and implementing the process of choosing and electing a permanent chairman.
"Although I am certainly not seeking another career as chairman, I do understand the urgent need to bring all of us together for the huge task ahead," Bennett wrote.
He said the party needs to regroup to build a grass-roots campaign to elect the party's presidential nominee, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel to the U.S. Senate, and the slate of Congressional and Statehouse candidates.
"That same attention to our grass roots also needs to sustain support for Governor John Kasich and his innovative programs and successful efforts to restore Ohio jobs and strengthen our economy," Bennett wrote.
He served nearly 21 years as chairman -said to be the longest-serving state Republican Party chairman in the U.S. - and was succeeded in 2009 by DeWine.
"I look forward to working with you and hope I can count on your support as we move forward. Once again, congratulations on your election to the Ohio State Central and Executive Committee; and please do enjoy my best wishes for a very happy and healthy Easter and Passover holiday," Bennett said.
Toledo-area members of the central committee are Jon Stainbrook and Meghan Gallagher of the 11th Senate District and Dee Talmage and Mark Wagoner (Sr.) of the 2nd district.
DeWine said he stepped down to avoid a "party-splitting dispute."
Bennett is being asked to stay on through the Nov. 6 election.
Bennett, of Cuyahoga County, left party leadership after the party was rocked by the Tom Noe scandal in Lucas County. Noe was convicted of stealing state funds that were invested with him in rare coins and for making illegal campaign contributions to the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. In 2006, the party lost the U.S. Senate seat and every Republican statewide seat except for auditor.
The party roared back in 2010, sweeping all the statewide offices, as well as the U.S. Senate seat. But some were not satisfied with DeWine's performance and backed Kasich's effort, starting shortly after his election in 2010, to oust him.