CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Former State Rep. Tom Brinkman says a public records request shows that Ohio Senate President Bill Harris concealed letters of recommendation supporting Michelle Schneider when she sought the District 7 Senate seat that covers Warren and Hamilton counties. Brinkman says one of the hidden letters came from the family of Robert Schuler, the incumbent who died in office last year. The GOP Senate caucus appointed Shannon Walker Jones to the vacant seat last summer. Brinkman contends a biased selection process was used in Columbus to seat Jones and "is not only un-Republican, it is un-American." Schneider is now challenging Jones in the May GOP primary.
Brinkman's claim that the appointment process was a sham rigged by Harris emerged in a letter that is circulating among Hamilton County Republicans. The letter says Jones raised $170,000 from First Energy Corp., an Akron utility company, and its coal suppliers. It claims Harris created a 7-member selection committee that focused on Jones fundraising prowess rather than her lack of support among Cincinnati-area Republicans:
"When the 'selection committee' recommended Ms. Jones, they disregarded written letters of recommendations for Michelle Schneider that . . . had been signed by (among many others) Commissioner Greg Hartmann, Prosecutor Joe Deters, Clerk of Courts Patty Clancy, Engineer Bill Brayshaw, County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou and former Ohio Senate Presidents Aronoff and Finan. Michelle's support from Warren County elected officials was equally impressive, with letters from their County Commissioner, current and former Sheriffs, and county Engineer, Treasurer, Clerk of Court and Coroner.
"After the 'selection,' I made a public records request for all correspondence to the State Senate in support of any of the candidates. To my surprise, I found that the Senate President had withheld from his hand-picked selection committee many letters of recommendation, including one from the Schuler family. In contrast, only one countywide elected official (from Warren County) endorsed Ms. Jones. There were no letters of support from any Hamilton County resident. In light of this serious imbalance in local support, I question how the 'selection committee' could have recommended Ms. Jones over Michelle Schneider."
Schneider is a former state representative from suburban Cincinnati. She also was the mayor of Madeira. She is challenging Jones, who lives in Springboro, a city in Warren and Montgomery counties that is a suburb of Dayton. Jones got the Senate appointment in August 2009. Brinkman also applied for the Schuler vacancy.