Monday, October 24, 2011
CAN STARK'S DEMOCRATS DO A CIVIC GOOD IN ALLOWING ALEX ZUMBAR TO REMAIN STARK TREASURER AT LEAST THROUGH SEPTEMBER, 2013?
On October 31, 2011 Stark's organized Democrats will meet to choose a Democrat successor for retired/resigned Stark County treasurer and Democrat Gary D. Zeigler.
It is their right according to the law of Ohio.
As all in Stark County know, unless one has been "out there somewhere," the county has been through political/governmental travail after travail after travail since April 1, 2009 when it was revealed that Zeigler's chief deputy treasurer (Vince Frustaci) had stolen taxpayer money.
CLICK HERE for more background on the situation.
With Zeigler's negotiated resignation/retirement approved by Stark County commissioners Wednesday past, there is now an opportunity for "real" healing to take place.
Such has not been the case because of the intransigence of Zeigler ("I did nothing wrong" - even in the civil/administrative sense of wrong) and because the Stark County commissioners (Bosley, Ferguson and Meeks under the advice of Stark County Prosecutor Ferrero) could not get it right in constitutionally removing Zeigler under Ohio Revised Code Sections 321.37/38.
The question is now: The Stark County commissioners (Republican Janet Creighton, Democrats Thomas Bernabei and Pete Ferguson) having appointed Republican Alex Zumbar as treasurer, can Stark's Democrats on the 31st - at the very least - bring themselves to not exercising their option to override the commissioners' appointment and thereby allow Stark County "a genuine time of healing?"
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?
Nobody is asking the Dems to forgo having one or more their own to file by December 7th for the right to be the Democratic nominee (as the result of the March 2012 Democratic Primary) to oppose Zumbar in the November, 2012 election.
Undoubtedly, there are those in Democratic officialdom who would be irate at the thought that the beleaguered Stark Democratic Party would not exercise its statutory right.
Most likely that school of thought would come from the likes of former Stark County Democratic Party Chair Johnnie A. Mair, Jr. (Massillon clerk of courts, running for reelection).
The SCPR is told that Republicans expect the Maier led faction of the Stark County Democratic Party to push for former Stark County Commissioner Gayle Jackson to step in for Zeigler.
In early 2007 with the election of Democrat Ted Strickland as governor, Maier prevailed upon Strickland to select Jackson (her son Shane in Maier's chief deputy at the Massillon clerk of courts office) as a regional official for the Ohio Lottery.
With the defeat of Strickland in 2010, Jackson was out of a job with the lottery.
There has been a lot of speculation as to where Jackson might reenter Stark County politics/government.
It appears to some that replacing Zeigler might be the perfect opportunity.
To be sure, such an action by the Stark Dems would raise a hue and cry from Stark's organized Republicans.
They would undoubtedly point to the the fact that two Democrats joined Republican Janet Creighton to appoint Zumbar and that Stark needs "a time healing" and therefore the Dems should leave "well enough alone."
Dems will counter (most likely in counsels among themselves) that yes that Republicans will take advantage of whatever they can to intimidate the Dems into not exercising their right to appoint one of their own, but an appointment of someone with the countywide presence of a Gayle Jackson (after a like GOP-let storm of protest) gives them their best chance to retain the office.
The reasoning would be that the "storm of protest" will blow over as Jackson or any Democratic appointee will have a year to serve before having to stand for election. The advantage of being an incumbent is no little thing.
Under the category that "the passage of time" heals or ameliorates many troubles (i.e. public dissatisfaction with Democratic public officials; especially those viewed to be part of the "good ole boys/girls network").
Another concern has to be that if they (the Dems) let Zumbar retain office as interim treasurer, they could be giving him an advantage that will be a springboard to his being Stark County treasurer for a very long time.
Remember, the Dems (will John Ferrero was party chairman) appointed Gary Zeigler as treasurer in 1999. He went on to defeat Republican Richard Regula in the next election and he served until October 19, 2011. But for what local attorney and civic activist Craig Conley has named as being "Zeiglergate," chances are that he would have been reelected in Novmber, 2012.
While their last appointee Ken Koher (after the commissioners illegally removed Zeigler) was highly qualified to be treasurer, he was no politician and his match up with Zumbar in the November, 2010 election was a mismatch.
Zumbar was much more politically accomplished by virtue of his having been Alliance auditor from 2004 to 2008. He had been Alliance 4th Ward councilman for about 7 years. Additionally, he has worked as an administrative assistant for Stark County Common Pleast Court Judge Charles Brown (a former Stark County GOP chairman). It didn't hurt him in Alliance and the eastern part of Stark County that his brother Andrew has been law director in Alliance for many years.
So Stark's organized Dem leadership must have breathed "a sigh of relief" when Koher - who has resituated since his 2010 loss to Zumbar and therefore is not interested in a rematch with Zumbar.
"A sigh of relief?"
Indeed. for what the Dems need is a seasoned politico (like Jackson) to have any hope of wrestling the treasury away from the Republicans.
They have to feel they can torture their way into making a case that Jackson is qualified by virtue of her past commissionership tenure and her work at the Ohio lottery.
And the Dems get a bonus. Jackson is a world above Koher in her political intuition and savvy. What's more is that she has Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. in her corner who has named her as being one of the best commissioners that Stark County has ever had.
So what will Stark County Democratic Party Chairman Randy Gonzalez do in terms of leading the Stark County Democratic Central Committee on October 31, 2011?
It is hard to tell.
He is under a lot of public pressure to take politics out of the treasurer selection process. But he is under equal pressure by devout party types to seize the moment and name a Democrat as interim treasurer.
He is truly between "a rock and a hard place."
Will he choose to be the politician that he has always demonstrated he is and push for the selection of a Dem interim treasurer?
Will he prove to be a statesman and guide the Party into declining to exercise its statutory option thereby leaving Zumbar in place?
To the SCPR, it would be shocking indeed if Gonzalez was to choose the latter over the former.
But there is no doubt that is what Stark County really needs!
Posted by Martin Olson at 7:23 AM