Bill DeFries, right, a Clayton businessman, thanks former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft for providing political mentorship over the past year. DeFries announced Thursday he was running for an open Montgomery County Commission seat. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Photo: Chris Stewart
Photo: Chris Stewart

Political newcomer attracts big GOP names to county commission bid

Area Republicans — including a former Ohio governor — seemingly threw their support behind a political novice to wrest away a Montgomery County Commission seat from Democrats.

“I believe that we can really accelerate the transformation of Montgomery County into a thriving, safer and a growing populace together,” said Bill DeFries, a Clayton businessman, during a campaign announcement Thursday at the Engineer’s Club of Dayton.

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After thanking former Gov. Bob Taft for providing political mentorship over the past year, DeFries spoke to about 80 people — including many state and local GOP officials representing county jurisdictions.

Among those in attendance: Republican state representatives Niraj Antani, Jim Butler, Mike Henne and Jeff Rezabek as well as state Sen. Peggy Lehner and other area GOP officials.

DeFries said it was his first news conference in any capacity, but the 57-year-old Chicago native is no stranger to the media, making news in recent months by pledged not to air NFL games in his Beavercreek Beef O Brady’s restaurant after national anthem protests by players.

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Republicans believe this could be the year they pick up a seat on the county commission, one not held by the GOP for about a dozen years. Democrat Dan Foley decided not to run for re-election.

Bob Matthews, a Republican former Miami Twp. trustee, ran a close race in 2016 against current Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge. As of Wednesday, petitions had been obtained from the Montgomery County Board of Elections by four other Republicans, current Miami Twp. Trustee Doug Barry of Miamisburg, Greg Hart of Oakwood, Bob Matthews of Miamisburg and Joshua Smith of Dayton.

RELATED: Dan Foley won’t run again for Montgomery County commission

But the large crowd of current and past GOP office holders would indicate DeFries is the early party favorite heading into a possible May primary.

DeFries was introduced Thursday by Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, the county GOP chairman.

“He’s got great support. He’s a hard charger. He’s a business man. He’s a former military police officer, so he understands public safety,” Plummer said. “I think he’ll be a good candidate.”

Plummer said the party has yet to screen or endorse anyone in the race, nor has he personally.

“I haven’t reached out and endorsed anybody yet,” Plummer said. “I still have processes to go through, but he is a very strong candidate and he’s a friend of mine, and he’s done a good job of raising money for the party. So we’re blessed.”

Party candidates have until Feb. 7 to file petitions.

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