Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff may be the most spineless man in Northeast Ohio. Still, it’s hard not to admire how he puts his lack of vertebrae to use.
For the past thirty years, Arshinkoff has managed to wiggle his way out of controversies that would have knocked most politicians on their asses. He’s been condemned for using the party treasury as his personal expense account, humiliated for rallying against gay rights by day while cruising for young male flesh at night, and chastised for manipulating public employees to do his evil biddings -- from getting contracts for his friends to mass firings of his enemies. Still, he’s managed stay on top for over 30 years…
It wasn’t until August that some Republicans decided that enough was enough. With State senator Kevin Coughlin leading the crusade, The New Summit County Republicans demanded that Arshinkoff’s reign come to an end, citing his long record of evil. And for a moment, it looked as if Coughlin and his cohorts might turn out the victors.
In February, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner refused to reappoint Arshinkoff to his seat on the Summit County Board of Elections, thanks to his divisive shenanigans. Instead, she appointed Don Varian, an Akron attorney and longtime Republican.
But instead of going down with dignity, Arshinkoff cried that Varian’s appointment was little more than a Democratic conspiracy. He sued Brunner and pointed to private conversations between herself and Summit County Democratic Finance Chairman Wayne Jones, where Jones advised Brunner against reappointing Arshinkoff and suggested Varian as a suitable option instead.
“It was ludicrous,” Varian says. “I’ve been a Republican for 30 years. I’ve worked on the staff of Richard Nixon. I’ve worked for the National Republican Committee in Washington. I’ve worked on Republican campaigns, voted Republican all my life and I’ve never donated to Democrats.”
But Varian’s victory was just the beginning of the battle. In March, Cuyahoga Falls Councilwoman Carol Klinger announced that she’d be vying for Arshinkoff’s party chair. A charming woman with a history of strong ethics and fiscal accountability going up against a self-hating gay dude who charges his car payments to the party? To a sensible person, the choice seemed obvious. And Arshinkoff must have realized that too.
That’s why, on March 30, when the Summit County Republican Central Committee met at Tangiers to vote on it’s new party leaders, Arshinkoff surprised partygoers with his sneakiest move yet.
At the last minute, Arshinkoff decided he wouldn’t be running against Klinger for the executive committee, which picks the party chair. Instead, he decided that he’d run against Varian for the Central Committee chair, who handpicks the members of the executive committee. “That’s part of his M.O.,” Varian says. “He never likes to let people know what he’s going to do. That’s the nature of the beast.”
Thanks to the fact that Varian had been painted as a “Democratic appointment,” the New Summit Republicans were only able to get 97 members on the 475-seat Central Committee.
Arshinkoff won two-thirds of the vote and left the meeting more powerful than when he came in. He can now appoint all members of the executive committee, who will naturally chose him as party chair.
Still, it’s hard to imagine that Summit County Republicans would want the real life version of Dr. Evil as their leader. Perhaps Varian offers up the most convincing argument for the why the rank and file has once again sided with Satan.
“These people have a serious economic interest in keeping the status quo,” Varian says. “It’s through Arshinkoff that they got their jobs, their campaign dollars, and they don’t want to upset that.” – Denise Grollmus