Is Commissioner Steven M. Meeks about to switch county commissioner races?
The SCPR has been suggesting such a move for some time Meeks appears ready to make the change.
After Wednesday's regular commissioners' meeting, The Report asked Meeks if he was considering a move from the 2 years remaining on the unexpired term he was selected to fill by the Stark County Democratic Central Committee this past December 15th, to the full term being vacated by Commissioner Todd Bosley.
Meeks' response: "You are on the right track."
But the SCPR believes there is a problem for Meeks in making the switch.
And what is that?
Stark County Democratic stalwart (in terms of having a strong name i.d. and having run two strong campaigns) Mike Stevens is running for the full term seat.
Stevens tells the SCPR that he is not entertaining thoughts of standing aside for Meeks - who is a close, close political confidant of Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez. The duo served together on the Jackson Township Board of Trustees with Meeks serving a trustee and Gonzalez as fiscal officer and having formerly served as trustee himself.
So if Meeks switches, is there going to be a fight for the nomination?
Yes, if Stevens means what he says.
Moreover, there is a Bernabei factor.
Yes. The Report has been increasingly hearing that former Canton councilman, former Canton chief-of-staff and service director (under Mayor William J. Healy, II) is considering a run for commissioner. If so, with Meeks considering a switch, his entry would likely be for the two year unexpired term.
A Bernabei candidacy for the two year term would set up conditions for a Meeks/Stevens primary fight.
And here is a surprise for you.
As the SCPR sees a Meeks/Stevens race, Mike Stevens might actually defeat Meeks in a Democratic primary because it is becoming more of a liability with voters these days to have strong party ties such as the Meeks/Gonzalez nexus (Randy Gonzalez: Stark County Democratic Party chairman).
Although the Republican party has tried to capture and control the Tea Party movement, true Tea Party types are disdainful of both political parties. Political analysts across the nation, including yours truly, see weak party connections as a more and more positive factor and expects to see more Tea Party-esque groups coming to the political fore presenting themselves as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties.
In a Meeks/Stevens contest, Stevens would be perceived as less of an insider Stark Democrat than Meeks, but he has enough of a party identification that many Stark County unorganized Democrats would vote for him as a way to send a message to the likes of Gonzalez that the party is more than the backroom type that Gonazlez, Meeks, Harmon and former chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr exemplify.
Moreover, it bodes well for Stevens in a Stark countywide election that he has served as a long time trustee in Lawrence Township, has served as state representative in the old 56th (now the 50th Ohio House district) and ran a very strong race against now retired commissioner Jane Vignos in 2004, losing by about 1,000 votes in an election that saw nearly 200,000 votes cast.
But make no mistake about it, Stevens has a tough fight ahead of him if Meeks makes the switch to the full term race.
Will Meeks make the switch?
The SCPR thinks so.
Meeks knows full well that two years from now will be the worst of times to have to run for re-election as county commissioner. One would think he understands that it is very unlikely that Stark Countians will approve an increase in taxes for the county general fund within the two year time span (and probably not even approve a renewal of the existing 0.25 levy) which, in turn, will mean huge cuts in county spending.
When the cuts come, they will adversely affect the Stark County public in a very tangible and personal way and voters likely will take their frustration out on commissioners coming up for re-election in 2012; even in the light of the commissioners having no other choice.
This is where Tom Bernabei comes in.
Tom Bernabei is probably the most able administrative/legislative type in all of Stark County (except in the opinion of Canton mayor William J. Healy, II who fired him a couple of years ago) Moreover, he is not perceived by the general Stark County public as being a strong partisan.
He wins hands down against any Republican who decides to run against him, if he decides to run.
Another plus. Bernabei likely does not care if he is in a position to get re-elected in 2012. He has had a storied public career. His getting fired by Healy hurt the Mayor big time in the public perception but bolstered Bernabei's reputation as being his own man.
If Bernabei does not run for the unexpired term, the SCPR could see Stevens being pushed over to the "two years remaining" position. While the SCPR believes Stevens when he says he's not moving from the full time slot, The Report believes that "push comes to shove," Stevens will yield in a scenario in which Bernabei does not run.
Looking ahead to the general election, if the Stark Republican Party leadership does not get its head out its _ _ _, they will continue to be skunked out in countywide races.
James Walters (Jackson trustee), Dean Windham (a Hartville builder) and Steve Curtician (a former Marine) are not going to defeat any of the Democrats who come out of the May primary, contested on the Democratic side or not.
If the Republicans don't, then the Democratic primary will be the end of the story on the 2010 county commissioner races!