- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Jo Ann Davidson, former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, will become Republican National Committee co-chairman, incoming Chairman Ken Mehlman said yesterday.

Republican officials said the choice of Mrs. Davidson reflects changes taking shape at the RNC, which convenes its annual meeting Jan. 18.

Mrs. Davidson is expected to play a more substantive role, particularly in election tactics, than previous RNC co-chairmen.

With Mr. Mehlman at the helm, the national party committee will have “one of the most hands-on chairmen in its history,” a longtime RNC member said yesterday.

President Bush’s national campaign team has credited Mrs. Davidson with a major role in helping the president win the key state of Ohio in the November election.

Republicans say that unlike most co-chairmen in the past, Mrs. Davidson, who will continue to run her consulting business in Columbus, will spend relatively little time at the party’s national headquarters on First Street SE in Washington and will travel less on the Republican Party speech circuit.

Instead, she will spend more time working from her home in Reynoldsburg, a suburb of Columbus, to further improve the national party’s person-to-person organizing and voter-turnout efforts.

Mr. Mehlman, who was White House political director and then campaign manager for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, is said to be “very high” on Mrs. Davidson because of the grass-roots organizing and voter turnout efforts she helped organize and oversee.

“She understands grass-roots politics probably better than anyone else,” said Robert T. Bennett, Ohio Republican Party chairman. “We are believers in grass-roots politics in Ohio, not just in television and pretty faces. We showed that knocking on the doors of your neighbors is the best contact you can have.”

The 165-member RNC — made up of an elected state party chairman, an elected national committee man and an elected committee woman from each of the 50 states and territories — will elect Mr. Mehlman and Mrs. Davidson formally at the Jan. 18-19 RNC annual winter meeting in Washington.

Mr. Mehlman said the 2004 Bush re-election effort in Ohio recruited more than 87,000 volunteers, held “at least 3,946 parties for the president, and made more than 4.5 million volunteer door-to-door knocks and phone calls to supporters and undecided voters in Ohio.”

It also made 2,373,167 “volunteer door-to-door knocks and phone calls” in the final 72 hours before Election Day.

Mrs. Davidson, who headed the Bush-Cheney ‘04 Ohio Valley regional campaign, will succeed RNC co-Chairman Ann Wagner, a party activist who also heads the Missouri Republican Party.

In November, Mr. Bush asked the RNC to elect Mr. Mehlman to succeed Ed Gillespie as national party chairman. Other RNC officers are slated to keep their posts, including Kentucky member Robert M. Duncan as general counsel, Vermont member Sarah Gear Boyd as secretary and Mississippi member Michael L. Retzer as treasurer.

Maria Cino will leave as RNC deputy chairman. The post, created for Bush fund-raiser Jack Oliver and then filled by Mrs. Cino, will be discontinued.

An RNC executive director has yet to be named, party sources said.

Mrs. Davidson was a member of the state House for 20 years and served as speaker from 1995 to 2000. She served as chairman of Bob Taft’s successful campaigns for governor in 1998 and 2002.

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