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Ohio Republicans voted Friday to oust current party chairman Matt Borges in favor of conservative activist and donor Jane Timken, a candidate backed by President-elect Donald Trump.
After two rounds of deadlocked voting, Borges and Timken retreated to a closed-door meeting where, according to Cleveland.com, Borges agreed to drop out of the race in exchange for being named “chairman emeritus” of the party.
It’s a striking reversal in fortunes for the party chairman, who was once seen as a potential contender for Republican National Committee chair.
Trump, who had publicly clashed with Borges during the campaign, took an unusually active interest in the vote, calling a number of state Republican committee members to lobby for Timken — and two of Trump’s top advisers trumpeted her win on Twitter.
Two Ohio GOP sources confirmed that while Trump made his support for Timken clear when calling committee members, he didn’t go so far as to bash Borges. Still, the calls followed a notably acrimonious relationship between Borges and Trump and his Ohio state team during the course of the presidential campaign.
Trump’s team had always eyed Borges with some suspicion because of his close ties to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of the most prominent “NeverTrump” holdouts in the GOP. Both Trump and Kasich allies acknowledged during the campaign that the governor's political operation largely sat the race out — with some in Trump’s team expressing concerns that Kasich’s network was quietly sabotaging the Trump campaign.
One Trump loyalist described it as "the quiet conversations with county party chairmen saying, you don't have to help, you don't have to put your donors on it."
And Borges was publicly critical of Trump, refusing for months to say whether he’d support the GOP nominee and calling his campaign “on life support” after one of the general election debates.
His comments prompted Trump’s Ohio campaign director to publicly break with the state party in October, accusing Borges of “duplicity.”
The ongoing feud at the time was seen as a potentially damaging development for the Trump campaign in a must-win swing state, but Trump ended up winning Ohio by about 8 points — a striking reversal in fortunes for the GOP, after losing Ohio in 2008 and 2012.