Wednesday, September 18, 2013


It is hard to figure out why the highly respected former superintendent of Massillon City Schools Al Hennon would throw his lot in with the political forces of Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.

The announcement yesterday by the proxy-Maier, Jr. administration (in the opinion of the SCPR) of Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry that Hennon is her choice to become Massillon safety-service director came as a shock to Hennon's fellow Massillon Republicans.

Hennon is on the November ballot as the Republicans' candidate for president of Massillon City Council.

A prime appeal of Hennon, is that, as a former superintendent of education, many would accord him "non-politician" status.  And on the surface such is understandable.  For superintendents do not hold political office.

The SCPR thinks that in reality superintendents are well schooled in the "art of politics" in having to manage boards of education.   In Stark County look no further than Alliance where former Marlington superintendent Alan Andreani is the mayor.

To say that with his decision to join "Team Catazaro-Perry" Hennon "shocked" his now "former" fellow Republican Massillon City Council running mates is not to use an adequate word to express the politico-emotional turmoil being experienced by his fellow GOPers.

It appears to the SCPR, in piecing together information gained through a number of sources, that Hennon began conversations as early as February of this year with Maier, Jr. about his becoming the permanent successor to Maier brother George T. Maier (at the time Massillon safety-service director in the Catazaro-Perry administration) who was appointed by Stark County's Democrats in a highly controversial intra-party battle (being settled through litigation now pending in the Ohio Supreme Court) in February to replace interim sheriff Tim Swanson.

Even though he did not seek re-election, Swanson had been appointed as interim sheriff when Sheriff-elect Mike McDonald (Democrat) could not take office because of what proved to be a terminal illness.

Though it has been denied by the Stark County Democratic Party leadership, some Stark Countians suspect that it was known that McDonald would never be able to assume the office of sheriff, if elected.

Had McDonald withdrawn before the election (depending on the timing of the withdrawal), the Democrats would likely have lost the office they have held going back to the days of Republican Robert Berens  (1981 - 1984) because either they could not come up with a formidable candidate to vie with Republican Larry Dordea (former Alliance police chief and current Hartville police chief) or perhaps no candidate at all.

In sort of an ironic twist, a number of Massillon Republicans feel that Hennon has screwed them and the Party big time in saying today that he planned on withdrawing as the GOP candidate for the council presidency

If the suspicion on the McDonald candidacy has any credibility, digging deep in to the mire of Stark County Democratic Party politics one has to believe that somewhere in the mix had to be former party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.

The SCPR believes that Maier, Jr. is astute enough and "politically" conniving enough to have thought out with his political alter-ego Shane Jackson (political director of the Stark Democrats) that in the event that McDonald could not serve, then such would present a prime opportunity for Maier, Jr. see brother George become county sheriff.

Maier, Jr., of course, is the Massillon clerk of courts and the politically dependent-on-him-Jackson, is his chief deputy.  

To carry this story further and the speculation that is rampant about the Hennon selection, it is believed by a number of politically active Massillon Democrats and Republicans that Maier, Jr. et al desperately wanted Hennon out of the council presidency race.

Why's that?

Because that there was no way in all creation that current council president, Democrat and possibly Maier, Jr's most loyal person on council over his years Ward 4 councilman, Tony Townsend could win election with the likes of Hennon as the opponent.

Townsend became council president  (as the appointee of Massillon's Democratic precinct committee persons [February 4, 2013]) on the sudden retirement of Glen Gamber as of December 28, 2012.

In addition to getting Townsend elected; in persuading well-respected Republican Hennon to come on board, the Maier political faction gives the lightly regarded Catazaro-Perry instant credibility.

A pretty clever plan from the perspective of the SCPR.

Only one problem with it.

It has created a firestorm within Massillon Republicandom because it has left the Massillon GOP "in the lurch" in terms of not having a candidate.

For had Hennon made a timely exit (i.e. time enough before August 12th to allow him to be replaced  on the ballot), the Massillon Republican caucus would have come up with a viable alternative to Townsend for Massillon's voters.

The Report is told by one of Massillon's Republicans that they contemplate meeting this Saturday to select a replacement for Hennon and to, early next week, present their nominee to the Stark County Board of Elections  (BOE) of certification as the GOP's candidate for president of Massillon City Council.

What's more, if the  BOE rejects the selection,  (which the SCPR thinks is a certainty), there is a possibility that a court challenge will be initiated.

Court challenge or not, The Report thinks that Townsend is home free and the Maiers will have achieved what yours truly thinks was their dual purpose in apparently persuading Hennon to abandon his run against Townsend.

Alternatively, it has been presented to The Report that there is no reason why Hennon cannot stay on the ballot and, if elected, resign and thereby allow his political party to select his successor. 

Fat chance of that happening, no?

Hennon, the SCPR thinks, in handling this matter in the way he has, may have - unfortunately - tarnished his heretofore impeccable reputation for being candid and forthright in the estimate of certain members of council.

One of the problems that the Catzaro-Perry administration has had in governing is an impression on the part of a number of council persons that it is not trustworthy.

As late as a Saturday Republican fundraiser event,  Hennon was telling his closest Republican confidants that he was doing the things that a candidate needs to do in preparing for the November 5th election.  Moreover, he was ballyhooed as a part of the Republican team that hoped to retain control of council.

It was an astonishing feat in its own right for Republicans to have captured control in this city which in modern times has been bastion of Democratic politics.  It was quite amazing to see the GOP take a 5 to 4 majority in the 2011 general election.

The defection of Hennon has to be dispiriting to the Republicans.  But the only real effect of the lost opportunity would be in tie votes (the president of council only votes in the case of tie votes) and, perhaps, in organizing council.

The decision of Donnie Peters, Jr. not to seek reelection in Ward 5 might be the critical factor as to which political party controls council.  There is no Republican candidate in the Ward and therefore it will be a net gain for the Dems.   However, it is more than a possibility that the Republicans will pick up Ward 4, Townsend's old ward.  GOP retention of Wards 1, 2 and 6 coupled with the reelection of Milan Chovan at-large presents a scenario that the Republicans can still control.

Nobody that the SCPR has talked to believe that Al Hennon is the type of person to make "a spur of the moment" decision and these folks refuse to believe that his consideration of taking the safety-service directorship came up post August 12th.

Consequently, the talk that the SCPR is getting is that Hennon's handling of the situation will cause them to double-clutch - in the context of his being a part of the distrusted Catazaro-Perry administration - in terms of whether or not he is all that different from what they have experienced in the past from the mayor.

It did not help any when he reportedly told several Republicans that as an insider he can do more for the Republican political agenda than he could have done as council president.

Such a point it seems to the SCPR is incredibly naive.

Maier, Jr. et al will certainly be keeping an eye on him.  Folks like Maier, Jr. need far less than "a different political affiliation" to become politically paranoid. 

It could be that the thinking among the Hennon/Maier, Jr./Catazaro-Perry alliance is that over time the outrage of Massillon's Republicans will subside and folks will decide to let bygones be bygones.

It appears to The Report that the Maiers did a similar thing in pushing to have George appointed sheriff.

They had to know that George had real problems in qualifying for sheriff under the standards of Ohio law.  But being the political strategists they are, they also knew that they had very little, if anything to lose, in pushing ahead.

First, perhaps,  they may have thought; nobody would challenge the candidacy of one of Stark County's most powerful Democrats (i.e. brother Johnnie).

But he did get challenged. 

Second, perhaps, they may have thought that nobody would institute a legal challenge once the intra-party was over.

But a lawsuit was filed.

Third,  perhaps, they may have thought that the Ohio Supreme Court might be reluctant to remove a sitting sheriff from office.

And, on this one, we do not yet know the answer.

They could be right. 

The SCPR's point is that politicians like Johnnie A. Maier, Jr make certain political calculations in assessing people and situations and take calculated gambles, that more often than not, pay off.

Accordingly, they develop a certain cockiness, arrogance and bravado about themselves.

That bearing is often very intimidating to their political opponents and becomes a technique in and of itself of them getting things going their way.

The Report's take on the Hennon/Maier, Jr., and Catazaro-Perry political alliance is that it was a carefully thought out gamble designed to salvage the mayor's failing administration and to keep Maier faction favorite Tony Townsend in office.

At the end of the day, it seems to the SCPR that it could be that the deal forming the alliance was struck in a world of "dark, (i.e. secretive) forces of political intrigue" that seems to be the order of the day in Massillon politics.

A world that Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. seems to thrive in.

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