Feud within local GOP flares

WARREN — The feud between the chairman and former secretary of the Trumbull County Republican Party continues in and out of the courtroom as the party pushes to see more of its candidates take seats after the Nov. 8 election.

A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 31 before Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Magistrate Jami Bishop in regards to the civil complaint Chairman Randy Law filed in June against Martha Yoder, GOP candidate for the state’s 64th District House seat.

A trial before Bishop is scheduled for Jan. 3 to settle the issue about party by-laws, control over the some of the party’s electronic assets and Law’s move to remove Yoder and two others from their leadership positions amidst infighting.

The conflict continues outside of the court as Yoder strives on Election Day to defeat state Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, incumbent in the 64th District.

During a candidate night Wednesday at Maplewood High School, the two had a non-verbal exchange, where Yoder offered Law an obscene hand gesture, both Yoder and Law confirmed.

Yoder said no one else saw the gesture, which was made in the back of the room. But news of it carried, as Law told several people, including her rival, O’Brien, Yoder said.

O’Brien confirmed Law told him, and said he thought it was odd to involve him in their party politics.

Law admits it was “weird timing” to share the party’s problems with O’Brien, but said he was aggravated by the gesture and brought it up right after it happened to a friend of Yoder’s, who was talking to O’Brien.

Yoder said the tension between the two boiled over and she regrets the gesture, made while pushing her glasses up her nose.

Ben Gibson, a Maplewood teacher who organized the candidate night, said no students or other attendees appeared to have seen the gesture “in a back corner of the room,” made while others were on stage. The move seemed like something private between the two and did not disrupt the night in any way, Gibson said. He only heard of it when Law told him.

But, Law said he did think some students saw the gesture and the reason  he told people was to apologize for  it

Gibson said, “I would like to know more about what is going on in the party, I mean why didn’t they endorse her?”

When asked why the party didn’t endorse Yoder, Law said she didn’t want to pay money to participate in a campaign idea other candidates came up with.

Law was asked over the phone three times if he wanted to see Yoder take the seat from O’Brien, before he said “yes.”

The gesture, Law said, makes the party look bad when they should be focused on the issues and election.

Yoder agreed the party should focus on getting its candidates elected, and wondered why, if no one saw the gesture, did he go around the event and tell everyone, including her opponent.

Law’s suit, filed in the name of the county party organization, seeks an injunction against Yoder and claims she was rightfully, and through the party’s by-laws, removed as secretary.

Yoder said the move violated by-laws and negates her legal election as secretary by central committee members, who also did not give Law the go-ahead to file suit against her.

The conflict has created a divide within the party.

Yoder’s counterclaim points to a June 27 special meeting of the party central committee, which passed resolutions giving it exclusive power to remove a party officer and requiring its consent to any legal proceedings involving the party.

That same night, Law reportedly gathered members of the party’s executive committee and voted in replacements for Yoder; Marleah Campbell as auxiliary chair and Barbara Rosier-Tryon as executive committee member, according to Yoder’s countercomplaint.

Yoder is asking the court to void this election and reverse the removals of Yoder, Campbell and Rosier-Tryon from office.

In her counterclaim, Yoder expressed that several members of the county GOP are dissatisfied with the “autocratic and deceptive conduct” displayed by Law.

Law has said the complaints are coming from a small group of dissidents who “want to make up their own rules.”