Last year’s presidential campaign proved to be a divisive one, not just for Ohio voters in general but also for the ultimately victorious Republican party itself. Republicans who supported the candidacy of Donald J. Trump during his historic campaign found themselves ostracized by many of their fellow party members due to the controversy many felt Trump courted with his policies and rhetoric.

Then, when the populist businessman proved successful in the 2016 election and occupied the Oval Office, the GOP found itself in large part fractured and confused, with some party members supporting the new president, wholeheartedly or otherwise, while others continued to publicly resist.

More recently, in Georgia, in a difficult and very expensive special election held in June to fill Rep. Tom Price’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in a victory that was hailed by the media as a continued validation of Trump’s policies and conservative ideology. Price’s departure to become Trump’s health and human services secretary created the vacancy in the House, and the election signaled that rank and file voters continued to embrace Trump’s conservative stance. 

But how do things look closer to home? Has the party found unity and what do local Ohio Republicans say about the current state of their local and national political party? How do they feel about their new president’s performance in the White House so far?

“You’d be surprised,” says Kathy Neiheisel, co-chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. “We are receiving lots of very positive comments. Local Republicans are happy about the direction and the effort that the President is putting in to the goals that he stated during the campaign. People wanted change and he is the agent for that change.”

The local Republican party is still riding a wave of popularity in the wake of last year’s Trump presidential victory. For the first time in nearly three decades Montgomery County went to a Republican candidate, with Trump edging out Democrat Hillary Clinton by a margin of 1.2 percent. The last time

 Montgomery County voted Republican was when George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in 1988.

“Montgomery County, which in two previous elections had gone to Obama, went red for the first time in 28 years,” says Neiheisel. “Twice this county voted for hope and change and obviously didn’t feel that it was delivered. So in the 2016 election the voters went in a different direction—with that outside agent for change. Trump came in with business experience and a proven record in his business life. Quite simply, he gets things done.”

Some local Republicans who initially weren’t Trump supporters found themselves drawn to the President’s policies over the course of the campaign. Local party official C.J.Bieghler, who is a member of the Greene County Republican Central Committee and a board member of the Ohio Federation of Republican Women, initially planned to cast her vote for GOP candidate Ted Cruz.

“My husband and I worked at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland,” says Bieghler, a Beavercreek resident. “I saw Donald Trump speak in person several times. But for some reason what he said during the convention really hit home. Not only what he said, but we also saw his adult children, who were always so kind. Being a mother myself I can say that Donald Trump’s influence is really reflected in his children.”

When asked about the future of the local party and about the president’s performance to date Bieghler is 100 percent supportive. “President Trump is a bold man. I approve of what progress he has made. And the Ohio Republican Party realizes that keeping the young adults active is our future. We need to come back into the center of our platform.”

But what about Dayton-area Republicans who aren’t local party officials? Ask the rank and file voters, the ones who responded to Trump’s bombastic campaign and voted for him in the fall, whether they’re happy about their decision and confident in the future of the party and the responses may surprise you.

“I do know the economy is up,” says Brooks Loeb, a New Carlisle resident and sales representative for an insulation company. “People are investing and spending money, housing is on the rise, employment is going in the right direction. Do I attribute that to him being president? Maybe some, but not all. There are things I do like and some I wish he would just be quiet on.”

Loeb considers himself a conservative Republican, but is not active in the local party. He states that he cast his first vote for Ronald Reagan back in 1980 and says he has never voted for a Democrat. “I think there will always be a conservative party and a liberal party. With that being said, I would like to see them both move a little more toward the middle. If that were to happen, in my opinion, you would see real change and unity as a nation. I would, however, always want a conservative-leaning Supreme Court.”

The 2018 mid-term elections are only 16 months away and all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be up for grabs during that election. In the meantime, the Montgomery County Republican Party and its officials, including its chairman, Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, will be focused on continuing and furthering their recent successes, and in keeping both new converts and the old-school conservative party faithful on board and working toward the same goals.

If recent history is any indication Montgomery County Democrats may be in for a long year. 

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