Alex Arshinkoff, chair of the Summit County GOP, has been one of the most successful county chairs in Ohio. He is also one of the longest lasting chairs, having been chair for nearly 30 years. What's interesting about Arshinkoff's success is that his reputation wasn't built on how well his party did in national or state races in Summit County. It was built on how well he did in local races and how well he did at raising money. In 1996, for example, the Summit County GOP won 16 out of 33 local campaigns. Not bad considering that Democrats have a registration advantage among Summit County voters. Yet, this year, notwithstanding his past success, he is under attack from some former allies.
Why? Well, according to this quote from the Akron Beacon Journal story on Saturday, April 19, 2008, it is because he has neglected local races. Here is the quote: "Klinger and the New Summit County Republicans are critical of how the party's money has been spent under Arshinkoff's watch and of his recent win-loss record. They want to see the party shift gears — going back to a focus on grass-roots politics and local races."
The Summit County GOP fight shows two things about local political parties. One is that even the most successful county chairs can face opposition if they neglect local races. The other thing, which is closely related, is that winning local elections is important for county political parties because that keeps their members involved.
The lessons for the Medina County Democratic Party are obvious. Success in state-wide elections isn't enough. Local political activists want to see results in local elections.
Over the last several years the Medina County Democratic Party has seemingly followed the strategy of focusing on the top of the ticket in the hopes that victories at the top of the ticket would generate Democratic victories down ticket. On the one hand this approach makes sense. People more often identify with political parties because of national or state issues, not local issues. On the other hand, though, this approach is not guaranteed to lead to winning campaigns for local races.
This was seen in 2006 when every Democrat but one who running for a state-wide office in a partisan race won, and yet local Medina County Democrats did not pick up a single seat. Indeed, the local Medina County Democratic Party lost ground since the Clerk of the Medina Municipal Court went from being an appointed Democrat to an elected Republican.
There is a saying in business that if you want to solve a problem, you have to put resources on that problem. Resources means people, time, and money. All of these resources are limited. This year the Medina County Democratic Party should take the lead in local races and let the national and state parties take the lead in the presidential race.