MAPLEWOOD — Long-time Republicans who have served as party officials and officeholders throughout Ohio have launched Operation Grant to persuade Republicans in the Buckeye State to vote for Joe Biden.

According to a press release, the decision didn’t come easy. But they’ve witnessed the degradation of the Constitution and rule of law under President Donald Trump and aim to reclaim the traditional party of Lincoln.

Phil Heimlich, a former Republican Cincinnati City Council member, Hamilton County Commissioner and assistant prosecutor, has been recruiting disenfranchised former Republican Party leaders from across the state since early July. A new poll indicates the group may be already riding a rising wave. Your Voice Ohio, a nonprofit journalism news collaborative, reports Joe Biden now outpaces Donald Trump support in Ohio by 46 to 42 percent.

Operation Grant leaders include Heimlich; Chris Gagin, former Belmont County GOP chair who resigned in disgust after Trump’s Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin; Roger Synenberg, former co-chair of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party and chair of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections; Chris Gibbs, former Republican Party chairman and Board of Elections president in Shelby County and a first-generation farmer and rancher; and Michael Anne Johnson of Cleveland, former assistant U.S. Attorney from the Northern District of Ohio.

“Four years ago,” said Heimlich, “many GOP members who wanted change in the White House took a chance on Donald Trump. We thought he’d lead as a conservative Republican, but instead he has imperiled our republic. We need to ask ourselves before we cast our vote for president in November: ‘Has President Trump protected our freedoms?’ The answer is unequivocally no. Trump’s shameful behavior at home and abroad has embarrassed us as Americans and threatened our democracy. If he is re-elected, rights we treasure like freedom of speech and the rule of law may fade away—our country may resemble Putin’s Russia more than Lincoln’s America.”

Operation Grant is named after President Ulysses S. Grant, an Ohio native and victorious Civil War general. It is affiliated with The Lincoln Project, founded by conservative commentator Bill Kristol and attorney George Conway (husband of White House advisor Kellyanne Conway), and Republican Voters Against Trump. Operation Grant launched July 17 to mobilize Ohio Republicans against Trump.

“We’re alarmed by the anti-democratic tactics and flagrant abuse of power committed daily by President Donald Trump,” said Gagin. “His actions are an affront to our Constitution. He’s refused to confront foreign governments that meddled in U.S. elections and engaged in disinformation programs against the United States.”

Johnson, of Cleveland, worked on the Department of Justice trial team that denaturalized John Demjanjuk, the notorious Nazi concentration camp guard. She said Trump has “undermined the rule of law, obstructed justice, and issued pardons and commutations to cronies who covered up his misdeeds.”

Trump has demonstrated gross incompetence during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing needless suffering and death that has resulted in economic catastrophe, said Operation Grant leaders. He’s violated conservative principles by running up a $2.7 trillion budget deficit, $1 trillion of it before the pandemic unfolded.

“This president’s trade policies, too, are at the heart of the economic devastation in rural Ohio,” said Gibbs. “Even during this historic economic crisis, he continues to pursue a war on trade that is bankrupting farmers, driving up farm debt and farmer suicides, and in destroying the livelihoods of rural Americans.”

“The actions of President Trump are tearing us apart,” said Synenberg. “The time is now to put country before party.”

President Grant once said, “My failures have been errors in judgment, not intent.”

In 2016, Ohio Republicans placed their faith in Donald Trump, the release said. That also was an error in judgment, not intent.

The group urges Ohio Republicans to visit its website at to join the movement, volunteer and donate. It plans to post guest blogs and host Zoom events on topics of interest to Ohioans throughout the election season.

“We are free men and women,” said Heimlich. “We claim our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe Mr. Trump no longer deserves the consent of the governed.”

After the Civil War, Grant rose to the moment to unite a nation most divided, said Gagin. “Ohioans who desire to preserve our republic must rise to the moment, too.”