The Power of State Central Committees in Disaffiliating Candidates: Safeguarding Party Integrity and Ethical Standards

Disaffiliation is a powerful tool that can be used to discipline Republican candidates and officeholders and has been supported by the United States Supreme Court. This author argues that the State Central Committee should have disaffiliated the Ohio's "Blue 22" months ago. Instead the powers that be on the Ohio Republican State Central Committee made a largely meaningless gesture of censuring the "Blue 22" with no tangible consequences.


Jon Morrow

3/16/20248 min read


Political parties are natural pillars of governance, serving as vehicles for articulating and advancing collective political goals of the people. Central to the functioning of any political party is its ability to uphold a set of principles and values that guide its actions and policies. However, when a candidate affiliated with a party acts in a manner contrary to these principles, it poses a significant challenge to the integrity and coherence of the party. The Ohio Republican Party is at a place in time where its inner turmoil in holding its candidates accountable is destroying the party due to the lack of guardrails that should be provided by the bylaws of the State Central Committee or by the State Central Committee itself through resolution.

The Ohio Republican Party is essentially split into three autonomous groups at the state level. That is the State Central Committee’s SCF (State Candidate’s Fund), and two auxillary legislative funds, one for the Ohio House known as the Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA) and one for the Senate known as the Ohio Republican Senate Campaign Committee (ORSCC.) Both the legislative funds are required by law and they are typically controlled by the highest ranking Republican in each chamber. Typically the Speaker of the Ohio House is in control of OHRA and the Ohio Senate is in control of the ORSCC.

The Ohio Republican State Central Committee saw fit to censure twenty-two of its own members because they acted overtly in their own self-interest to grab political power and weaken the Republican majority rather than acting in the interest of registered Republicans. These twenty-two broke the trust of their colleagues and the trust of registered Republicans. Essentially, we now have a coach in the Ohio House that is eyed with a great deal of suspicion and paranoia and every play he calls - or doesn’t call - will be suspect.

Unfortunately, no one in the Republican Party had the foresight to predict that the Ohio Speaker of the House (Jason Stephens), who was himself censured, would use the money in OHRA to only support the twenty-two censured candidates that supported his election and launch character assassination attacks on any candidates that challenged the censured twenty-two.

The effect of Stephen’s actions is that millions of dollars of Republican donations meant to support the Republican caucus are going to the Republican officeholders that supported the Democrat caucus. This should not be allowed to stand and party leaders should put an end once and for all in adopting policy that would not allow this type of situation to continue.

The Power of State Central Committees:

The Ohio Republican State Central Committee is not simply a fundraising organization that acts as cheerleaders for Republican candidates. The State Central Committee, as the governing body of the Republican Party at the state level, holds considerable authority over party affairs, including candidate selection and endorsement. One crucial aspect of this authority is the ability to disaffiliate candidates whose actions are detrimental to the party's interests or violate its core principles. While this power is rooted in the associational rights of political parties and recognized and protected by law, it should be used sparingly. In most cases when a candidate or officeholder breaks the law they are subject to impeachment. But candidates and officeholders may be expelled from the party just as former speaker Larry Householder was expelled from the Ohio House of Representatives and was not impeached.

Speaker Stephens essentially thumbed his nose at leadership and is spending Republican donations on candidates that are not endorsed. Additionally he is violating the bylaws of the State Central Committee by using funds to attack candidates with disgusting and uncalled for advertisements - harming the party for years to come. Party leaders have the power to hold Stephens and the twenty-two accountable by disaffiliating them and throwing them out of the Republican party. This would necessarily mean they would not be the Republican candidates on the November ballot and they would be forced to run as independents. Under Ohio Revised Code 3513.31(B) a district committee formed by the County Central Committees in that district would decide who their Republican candidate would be. They would be unable to reappoint the candidate that was thrown out of the party because they are disqualified and no longer a Republican.

In my opinion, the Central Committee needs to send a clear message that it is in control of the party and set a deterrent so that a future Speaker of the House or Senate President doesn’t seek to undermine the authority of the State Central Committee again.

Legal Precedents and Justifications:

Several legal cases have affirmed the authority of state central committees to disaffiliate candidates based on their conduct. In Clinger v. New York State Democratic Party, the New York appeals court upheld the party's decision to remove a candidate for violating party rules, emphasizing the party's associational rights. Similarly, in California Democratic Party v. Jones, the United States Supreme Court recognized the autonomy of political parties in selecting and endorsing candidates - including the right to not associate.

California Democratic Party v. Jones the Supreme Court found (excerpts):

“This Nation has a tradition of political associations in which citizens band together to promote candidates who espouse their political views. The First Amendment protects the freedom to join together to further common political beliefs, id., at 214-215, which presupposes the freedom to identify those who constitute the association, and to limit the association to those people, Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette, 450 U. S. 107, 122. In no area is the political association's right to exclude more important than in its candidate-selection process. That process often determines the party's positions on significant public policy issues, and it is the nominee who is the party's ambassador charged with winning the general electorate over to its views. The First Amendment reserves a special place, and accords a special protection, for that process, Eu, supra, at 224, because the moment of choosing the party's nominee is the crucial juncture at which the appeal to common principles may be translated into concerted action, and hence to political power, Tashjian, supra’

“....On this point, the dissent shares respondents' view, at least where the selection process is a state-run election. The right not to associate, it says, "is simply inapplicable to participation in a state election." "[A]n election, unlike a convention or caucus, is a public affair." Post, at 595 (opinion of STEVENS, J.). Of course it is, but when the election determines a party's nominee it is a party affair as well, and, as the cases to be discussed in text demonstrate, the constitutional rights of those composing the party cannot be disregarded.”

“...Representative democracy in any populous unit of governance is unimaginable without the ability of citizens to band together in promoting among the electorate candidates who espouse their political views. The formation of national political parties was almost concurrent with the formation of the Republic itself. See Cunningham, The Jeffersonian Republican Party, in 1 History of U. S. Political Parties 239, 241 (A. Schlesinger ed. 1973). Consistent with this tradition, the Court has recognized that the First Amendment protects "the freedom to join together in furtherance of common political beliefs," Tashjian, supra, at 214-215, which "necessarily presupposes the freedom to identify the people who constitute the association, and to limit the association to those people only," La Follette, 450 U. S., at 122. That is to say, a corollary of the right to associate is the right not to associate. "'Freedom of association would prove an empty guarantee if associations could not limit control over their decisions to those who share the interests and persuasions that underlie the association's being.'"


Political parties play a pivotal role in representing the collective interests of their constituents. However, instances arise when candidates deviate from the ethical standards and values upheld by their respective parties, jeopardizing the integrity and reputation of the party as a whole. Voting with the caucus of the party that is the antithesis of everything that the Republican party stands for is an unforgivable sin and the optics of coordinating with Democrats is even worse. The process of disaffiliation indeed varies significantly from state to state, contingent upon the unique legal frameworks and party structures in place. Typically, the State Central Committee wields considerable authority in matters of disaffiliation, especially for candidates seeking state legislature positions and above. This authority stems from the party's internal governance rules and state election laws, which often grant significant autonomy to state-level party organizations.

At the state level, the State Central Committee holds the prerogative to disaffiliate candidates for various reasons, including violations of expected professional standards of conduct or actions contrary to the party's principles. This process is usually initiated through the adoption of a resolution by the central committee, formally declaring the candidate in question "Persona non grata" within the party ranks. Such resolutions may specify the duration of disaffiliation, ranging from temporary bans to permanent exclusion from party affiliation.

Furthermore, a County Party often retains authority over disaffiliation for candidates at the local level. County parties are intimately familiar with the political landscape and expectations within their jurisdictions, making them well-positioned to assess and address violations of professional standards of conduct if they have any. In many cases, disaffiliation decisions at the county level are made to preserve the integrity and reputation of the party within the local community.

Although the Secretary of State may continue to recognize a candidate's party affiliation, being declared "Persona non grata" by the State Central Committee effectively prohibits the candidate from running on the party ticket in primary elections. As a consequence, the candidate is often compelled to pursue an independent candidacy, further highlighting the significance of disaffiliation as a disciplinary measure within the party structure.

The nuances of disaffiliation processes underscore the decentralized nature of American political parties, where state and local organizations wield considerable autonomy in shaping candidate selection and party governance. By empowering State Central Committees and County Parties to enforce professional standards of conduct, these processes help maintain the integrity and cohesion of political parties while ensuring accountability among candidates seeking party affiliation.

Ethical Imperatives:

Beyond legal considerations, there is a compelling ethical imperative for state central committees to disaffiliate candidates who engage in ethically repugnant behavior. Political parties serve as moral agents within the political arena, and allowing candidates to act contrary to the party's principles undermines public trust and confidence in the party's integrity.

While, in, and of itself, voting with the Democrat caucus might have been a forgivable sin - Stephens actions with OHRA money and the campaigns he has run deserves the harshest of penalties for all involved. The slow reaction by the state party leadership to thwart the misappropriation of funds means the damage has already been done and if the party does not act to disaffiliate - the likelihood of Stephen’s being the next speaker of the Ohio House with an ax to grind against conservatives will certainly come to pass. Stephen’s and his allies should not be rewarded for misappropriating funds and using the funds to demonize fellow Republicans.

Failure for the party to disaffiliate these candidates and allow them to win re-election with Republican donations will lead to less volunteerism and lead to less donations. It will also embolden more unethical activity knowing that the State Central Committee will not get involved. We could be witnessing the beginning of the end of Republican dominance in Ohio.


The law that creates the legislative funds that empower the Ohio Speaker of the House and the Ohio Senate President are most likely not legal as it is the state meddling in the internal affairs of the party that serves no particular state interest. If challenged the law would very likely fall if it arrives at the United States Supreme Court in examining that court’s opinion Eu v. S.F. Cty. Democratic Cent. Comm., 489 U.S. 214 (1989). There is also good reason in bringing all the resources together under one roof. Instead of three headquarters there only needs to be one and the risk is reduced in having party unity disrupted.

In conclusion, the power of state central committees to disaffiliate candidates is essential for safeguarding the integrity and ethical standards of political parties. By exercising this authority, parties can uphold their associational rights, maintain professional standards of conduct, and prevent candidates from pursuing self-interest at the expense of the party's reputation. Legal precedents and ethical considerations underscore the importance of this power in preserving the integrity of the democratic process.

I would ask that the Republican State Central Committee suspend their bylaws at the special meeting to discuss disaffiliating the Blue 22 members.

How do you deal with candidates that stab their party in the back?