Ohio's Statehouse Republicans and Democrats have made it difficult but it does appear that 5th District Court of Appeals and Republican Judge John Wise may well have a political "independent" running against him in Wise's quest for a new term who has been on the Court of Appeals since 1995.
His likely opponent?
However, he will have to collect 5,000 qualified registered voter signatures within the next two weeks for filing with the Stark County Board of Elections not later than March 5th in order to be on the general election ballot of November 6th.
If Cyperski had filed as a partisan candidate, he would only have had to collect 50 such signatures.
Organized Republican and Democratic party leaders think the extraordinary requirement of independent candidates is a politically smart self preservation move. And, to a certain degree it is. However, such self-serving moves also adds to the growing cynicism that the general voting public has towards both mainline parties and over the longer term undermines their ability to govern effectively.
Cyperski issued the following press release on Friday stating his intention to run against Wise and to base his campaign on Wise's announced intention to retire before the end of his current term (but within a space not allowing for his political party to name a successor for the remainder of his term) and then run for re-election.
Wise unabashedly says that it is within his legal right to do so in order to collect his his public employee pension which is thought to be 88% of $132,000 (the salary for the position) or $116,160 plus the salary (if re-elected) of $132,000 which, of course, would equal about $248,160.
Wise would also qualify for an approximate 3% annual increase over the span of collecting his retirement check with a beginning in 2013 amount of about $3,500 which for 2013 would put him above a quarter of a million dollars in annual income from salary and pension alone.
By the SCPR's calculation, Judge Wise's annual pension income will exceed the base salary of $132,000 within 5 years or so. Sweet, no?
Wise has been on a fast track in achieving elective office. It has not hurt his judicial political aspirations that both his father and grandfather were Stark County Probate Court judges going back decades.
Here is his biography as published on the 5th District Court of Appeals website:
Judge Wise is not the only 5th District Court of Appeals judges to invoke a retire - rehire plan of action.Judge Wise graduated from Ohio Northern University School of Law and was admitted to the practice of law in 1979. Prior to being elected to the Canton Municipal Court bench in 1990, Judge Wise was in private practice for ten years. His practice consisted of general civil litigation, including personal injury from both plaintiff and defense side, along with an active probate practice. From municipal court, Judge Wise was elected to the Stark County Court of Common Pleas and in 1995, he successfully ran for the Fifth District Court of Appeals. Judge Wise has served by assignment of the Chief Justice on the Ohio Supreme Court. He also serves as a Lecturer for the Ohio Judicial College.
JUDGE JOHN W. WISE
His colleague Democrat Judge W. Scott Gwin has announced his intention to do the very same thing.
The same folks who have prevailed on Cyperski to run are working hard to find a Gwin opponent.
The SCPR endorses the effort underway to find opponents for Wise and Gwin as it is The Report's position that the voters should have the opportunity to weigh in on whether or not the public likes the idea of retire - rehire, Wise and Gwin fashion.
The Ohio General Assembly in its policy making decisions regarding Ohio's public retirement systems has created a situation whereby public retirement does not equal actual retirement from publicly funded positions.
There are strict Ohio Supreme Court prohibitive rules on the methods/topics that candidates can use in contests for judicial office on the notion that if typical political attacks (i.e. those commonly used in non-judicial races) on candidates' judicial record itself were allowed, such would undermine the public's confidence in the integrity of the judicial system.
The Supreme Court limitations notwithstanding, it is hard to see how Cyperski could be shut down on his plan to make the retire - rehire issue the focus of his campaign to replace Judge Wise.
Whether or not Stark citizens favor or disfavor Wise/Gwin retaining office, it seems to the SCPR that it is the democratic-enhancing thing to do to support petition drives designed to provide voters with candidates who oppose the announced intentions of sitting judges to retire but run for re-election.
What the Ohio General Assembly does not provide, the citizens of the state of Ohio/Stark county can fashion for themselves.
"We the people" are the baseline of our democratic republic.