THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HEALY'S VICTORY
Stark County Commissioner Pete Ferguson must be beside himself this morning to have to wake up to the news that Canton Democrats nominated William J. Healy, II to be the party standard bearer in the general election against Republican winner A.R. "Chip" Conde.
Healy has irreconcilable differences with the notion that anyone but he should be in charge when it comes to city/county consolidated 9-1-1, building departments, health departments and information technology departments. His "my way or the highway attitude" makes it virtually impossible that Canton can find common ground with county government and other Stark municipalities to effect efficiencies through consolidation and merger.
Healy's victory over Stark County's leading regionalist (Smuckler) will likely harden his attitude. Moreover, other contributing factors to his standing firm - if not firmer - against any consolidations include:
- his blood feud with Republican Stark County Commissioner Janet Creighton whom he defeated in 2007 to become mayor. Shortly after his win over her he trashed her as having left him with a mess to deal with when he took over on January 1, 2008,
- his falling out with fellow Democrat and Stark County Commissioner Tom Bernabei early on in his administration when, as service director and chief of staff, Bernabei had the temerity to differ with the mayor on various matters that came up in the day-to-day administration of Canton,
- Creighton's contribution to Conde ($1,100.00) in the pre-primary,
- Conde having been a key member of Creighton's administration as mayor of Canton,
- 9-1-1 Project Manager Joe Concatto having served in the Creighton administration and also on record as a contributor to the Conde campaign,
- Commissioner Ferguson's creation of a committee (headed by a key Smuckler campaign aide and former Stark County Commissioner Tom Harmon [both Democrats]) to look into the plausibility and desirability of consolidating the county and city building departments.
- County Chief Administrator Mike Hanke's contribution to Bill Smuckler's campaign.
Now that Smuckler is history (and likely out of politics for good now), the only hope for Cantonians and Stark Countians who want to see more cooperation along the consolidation/merger line between Canton, county government and other local government entities is for them to get behind Republican Conde.
In order for Conde to defeat Healy, it will take a coalition of the few Republicans who remain in Canton and Smuckler Democrats as well as independents. A major asset he will have in his corner is his former boss Janet Creighton. Fortunate for him, as commissioner she has a base from which to operate to influence Cantonians who admire her (which includes not only Republicans, but many Democrats and independents as well) to vote for Conde.
Undoubtedly, Commissioners Bernabei and Ferguson will be weighing in against Healy.
HEALY'S VICTORY: HOW DID HE DO IT?
Mayor William J. Healy parlayed his close relationship to Canton's predominately Afro-American wards into a sizable victory yesterday. His margins in Wards 2 & 4 were about 70% of his nearly 600 vote margin.
Throughout the campaign the SCPR was hearing that Healy's focus would be on Canton's inner city and close into the city center wards as the way to victory over challenger and Councilman-at-Large William Smuckler. Wards 2, 4 and 6 are in close proximity to one another.
Greg Hawk (a bitter opponent of the mayor) appears to have helped Smuckler run almost even with Healy in Ward 1 where Hawk was unsuccessfully challenged by a Healy ally and former Republican Bob Harper.
However, Smuckler needed a lot more than Hawk's help to pull off a win. A couple weeks ago Smuckler told the SCPR his pollster told him he had a double digit lead. Really? Smuckler was also telling The Report that he would run well in the inner city. Hmm?
To sum it up, Healy was blessed with having an uninspiring opponent who does not connect well with everyday people and, very importantly, union members who gave huge sums money for his campaign and walked the neighborhoods for him.
Healy's "worked like a charm" strategy was really pretty simple. Get winning margins in seven of Canton's nine wards and watch Smuckler try to overcome the many with one ward - the 8th.
Despite Healy's troubled tenure as mayor, the colorless Smuckler was not a guy who was going to defeat him in a Democratic primary.
DOES CONDE HAVE A CHANCE?
Of course. But it will not be easy.
He needs to start out now realizing how far behind he really is. Unless he begins today and works tirelessly from now through general election day, the possibility will become an utter impossibility.
If he proves that he has the smarts and the determination to beat the master politician Healy, not only will he have won a political campaign; he will find that these qualities stand to make in the leader that Canton so sorely needs.