Former Dayton mayor Rhine McLin survives push to oust her from board

Former Dayton mayor Rhine McLin survived an effort to oust her from the Montgomery County Board of Elections after pledging she would no longer openly oppose candidates endorsed by the county’s Democratic Party, according to party chairman Mark Owens.

The county party’s executive committee on Wednesday night voted to recommend that McLin be reappointed to her seat on the elections board. Some in the party had called for the seat to be given to another Democrat after McLin supported Democrat A.J. Wagner for mayor in 2013 instead of the endorsed Democrat, Nan Whaley, who beat Wagner.

McLin, who is vice chairwoman of the Ohio Democratic Party, could not be reached for comment but in a voicemail she said she had worked hard to keep her seat on the board.

Owens said about 40 of the 60 executive committee members came to the meeting and only one person voted against McLin. A few others abstained, he said. McLin spoke before the vote.

“She did promise that as a leader of the party she would not openly oppose our endorsed candidates,” said Owens, who is also Dayton Municipal clerk of courts. “She also pledged to help bring the party together.”

The county party executive committee recommends two of the four elections board nominees to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who makes the final selection.

It is very rare for the secretary of state to not appoint a person recommended by the county parties, said Joshua Eck, spokesman for Husted.

Democrats and Republicans each have two members on the board. The terms of McLin and Republican Greg Gantt end Feb. 29. New appointees will serve three-year terms.

McLin was appointed to the board in 2012.

The salary for the job starting this year is $18,744, a 5 percent increase over last year, according to Cathy Petersen, spokeswoman for Montgomery County.

The board of elections oversees the board staff and all elections. They decide whether to count questionable absentee or provisional ballots and nominating petitions and also decide how elections are run locally.

In an interview earlier this week, former Dayton mayor Richard Clay Dixon said he had been asked if he was interested in replacing McLin, but he had not made a decision.

McLin, also a former state senator and member of the Ohio House of Representatives, is the daughter of the late C.J. McLin, a Democratic Party legend who spent more than two decades in the Ohio House.

She supported Wagner, a former county auditor and Common Pleas Court judge who now is a member of the State Board of Education. Wagner also was supported by Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, who previously worked for Wagner in the auditor’s office and cited her long friendship with him.

Lieberman and McLin’s support of Wagner caused a schism in the party that has lingered since 2013. Owens said he hopes that the healing process is underway.

“We hope that we have a unified party going forward,” Owens said.

Whaley did not attend the meeting but said she supports whoever Owens wants on the board of elections and what is best for the party.

“I’ve never had a problem with Rhine,” said Whaley. “I really don’t give Rhine much thought.”

Whaley said that since she was elected mayor she tries to work with everyone, including those who didn’t support her, including Lieberman.

Donald Domineck, a board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Dayton, said Wednesday that he opposed the removal of McLin. He said she had reached out for support, and that he and others attended the meeting and spoke to committee members in advance. He was pleased that McLin survived ouster but he didn’t like that she had to pledge to not oppose endorsed Democrats.

“We’re supporting Rhine basically because one of the reasons is she is the only African American on the board of elections,” said Domineck, who also is an area leader for the New Black Panther Party. “We feel like it’s not right to punish any member of the party for supporting who they believe to be the right person for office.”

Domineck said punishment might be justified if McLin had supported someone from another party.

“(Wagner) is a Democrat and longtime political resident of Dayton. Everybody knows A.J. and he’s a good person,” Domineck said.

Domineck said Whaley “is basically behind all of this push to push Rhine out because Rhine didn’t support her. We think that is too much power and control.”

“It just adds to the distrust that a lot of us have for Nan Whaley.”

Whaley said she doesn’t know Domineck and declined to comment on his remarks.

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