New Ohio Republican Party chair looks back at first year

One of the biggest changes in Jane Timken’s life the past year is the 37,000 additional miles on her car.

The media often seek interviews. She chats occasionally with President Donald Trump. Someone created an entry about her on Wikipedia. With her children grown or nearly grown and away at school, she spends most nights away from her Jackson Township home near Canton, often only able to spend time here on weekends. And she has been to more than 70 of Ohio’s 88 counties this year.

That’s what happens when you become the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party in a key swing state.

“It’s been an incredible year for me,” Timken said.

While Timken was well known within Ohio Republican circles, she served as vice chairman of the Stark County Republican Party and as a Republican National Convention, the former attorney and Stark County Common Pleas magistrate was far from a public figure. However, since taking over the state’s Republican chairman duties and hosting, along with her husband and TimkenSteel CEO Tim Timken, a fundraising for Trump, Jane Timken’s star has been rising.

Trump’s support

Robert Paduchik, who had overseen Trump’s Ohio campaign, asked her to seek the Ohio Republican chairmanship. Trump supporters weren’t happy with then-chairman Matt Borges, who backed Gov. John Kasich’s run at the presidency.

The Timkens threw their support behind Trump and hosted a fundraiser that Trump attended at Brookside Country Club.

RELATED: Trump defeates Kasich in fight for Ohio Republican Party leadership

Trump personally called more than a dozen Ohio Republican Central Committee members to lobby for Timken as chairman over Borges. In the first ballot in early January, Timken and Borges tied in a committee vote. Finally, Borges agreed to step down, conceded to Timken and became chairman emeritus.

Timken made it clear she wasn’t going to run the state party like the traditional bosses of the past. She issued a message to Ohio GOP Central Committee members her first priority was to re-invigorate party finances, drained by the 2016 contest.

“I said we’re going to turn the page. We’re going to try to unify and bring everybody together. … I’m not going to seek retribution against people who didn’t support me,” she recalled last week. “My leadership style is really try to rise above the pettiness. I really find it unproductive as chairman. It’s not me. It’s about the candidates. … I’m not into the drama.”

Timken said the state party has raised about $2.9 million this year as it seeks to position itself to support its candidates at the national, state and even the local level.

Staying visible

Stark County Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton, one of Timken’s supporters, said she likes that Timken has hired regional representatives to regularly meet with county GOP officials around the state when she can’t do so herself. And she issues a weekly bulletin on Facebook to keep them in the loop about what she’s working on and showcasing all the Republican statewide candidates.

“I think she did fantastic. She hit the ground running (in January),” Creighton said, adding that her Republican friends around the state often report seeing or meeting her. “She’s probably the most visible chairman we’ve had in a really long time. … My friends have told me, ‘By golly, she came to our dinner. She’s really making her presence known and we love it that we see her and she talks to us.’”

RELATED: Trump pick ousts chairman of Ohio GOP

Timken, consistent with her low-key manner, hasn’t sought the limelight despite her position. A Google search of her name shows while she’s frequently mentioned in articles, since January, they’ve rarely been about her, but often about Republican candidates.

“I like to say my job is pretty simple. I have to build the roads. My candidates can drive down the roads to win,” Timken said.

Timken said logistical support is not only for Republicans running for Congress or governor, but also for those running to be township trustee, mayor and city council.

As part of her initiative to expend resources and attention at the local level, she says the state party has helped local Republican candidates in 45 municipal contests across the state.

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