The CUYAHOGA COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY began in Ohio with a statewide convention held in Columbus 22 March 1854 to oppose the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The act, by allowing the two territories to decide for themselves whether or not to permit slavery, in effect repealed the Missouri Compromise, which had prohibited slavery in those western territories. After passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the nucleus of the new Republican party emerged, calling for its repeal and no further extension of slavery. In Cuyahoga County a People's party, formed in Sept. 1854, campaigned for the successful reelection of anti-Nebraska candidate EDWARD WADE to Congress. The Cuyahoga County party, using the name Republican by 1855, was made up of conservative Whigs, Free-Soilers, Union Democrats, and Know Nothings. It actively supported John C. Fremont, first presidential candidate of the national party (organized in Feb. 1856) who won a majority in Cleveland and the county.
As antislavery sentiment grew, so did the fortunes of the local Republicans, dominating Cleveland politics during and after the Civil War. Both local parties chose candidates for political office about a week before the April election, and their names were printed in the local newspapers. Republicans received the best press from the CLEVELAND LEADER, their major supporter. Prominent party leaders during the latter part of the 19th century included Silas Merchant in the 1870s and William H. Gabriel from 1885-90. When countywide voter registration was established in May 1885, a Republican and a Democratic registrar for each precinct was stationed at the voting places on specified days to record the names of voters who presented themselves.
When Benjamin Harrison ran for president in 1888, Republicans revived the Tippecanoe Clubs, originally founded by the Whigs to campaign for his grandfather, William Henry Harrison. Club rooms were organized, and in 1896 local Republicans chartered a train to Canton, OH, to congratulate president-elect William McKinley, whose successful campaign had been managed by Cleveland industrialist MARCUS HANNA. In the 1890s there was a struggle for power within the local party between Hanna and Mayor ROBERT MCKISSON, who had built his own political machine. In 1898 their fight for control moved to the statehouse, where McKisson came within 3 votes of defeating Hanna in his bid to become U.S. Senator from Ohio. After Hanna's death in 1904, Senator THEODORE BURTON, and later MAURICE MASCHKE, took over party leadership. Major businessmen in Cleveland were the mainstay of the Republican party, which regained the mayoral seat and control of city council in 1916 after Democratic mayor NEWTON D. BAKER left office. Republicans were the dominant party in the 1920s and 1930s. Maschke's retirement in the early 1930s provoked a conflict over the distribution of patronage, and Congressman GEORGE BENDER gained control of the Cuyahoga County Republican organization in 1938. He remained county chairman until 1955, when ALESSANDRO "SONNY" DEMAIORIBUS succeeded him. When DeMaioribus died in 1968, Robert Hughes and Saul Stillman became co-chairmen, and after Stillman resigned in 1975 Hughes continued as chairman of both the Central and Executive committees.
By 1947 the party's decline became evident as Cleveland became a Democratic stronghold. Unable to produce vote-getting candidates, the party suffered defeat in both county and city elective offices, and their Cleveland City Council representation declined from 13 out of 33 in 1953 to 2 by 1965. The Republican party, however, reentered Cleveland politics in the 1970s by electing 2 mayors, Ralph Perk (1972-77) and George Voinovich (1980-1988). In 1984 the Cuyahoga County Republican party consisted of committeemen selected by registered Republicans from each ward or precinct in the county during the primary elections. The committeemen, who made up the County Central Committee, elected the party chairman, and the Executive Committee, which was its decision-making body, formally met twice a year to endorse Republican candidates for the primary elections.