UPDATED AT 8:52 AM
Once upon a time Kim Perez was one of if not THE VERY BEST Democratic vote getters in Stark County. He has been particularly effective in garnering city of Canton votes in his races for various offices over the years including his recent (2013) win as Canton treasurer.
His 2010 Stark County auditor race loss to Republican Alan Harold (under special circumstances, see explanation below) had to be devastating to him.
An astonishing thing about Perez is how many Stark County Republican politicos there are who cotton to him personality-wise. The Report thinks that he successfully projects an "aw-shucks, who me?" persona that sucks even political sophisticates into believing that he is a politically uncalculating elected official who is more or less uninterested in hard-core Democratic politics.
In that regard he has an almost Gomer Pyle innocence quality to him.
But make no mistake about it, Perez is not a Gomer Pyle "Oh, Golly Gee" rube.
Perez, a cousin to Stark County Democratic chairman Randy Gonzalez, can and does work political sophistication one-step-up from his political peers. Had he not got caught up in the web of Conley's Zeiglergate tag line because of his deep and lengthy political camaraderie with Zeigler, he would have beat back Alan Harold's challenge with ease.
He - the SCPR evaluates - buys into Democratic Party political rhetoric and indeed becomes the Stark County spokesman for Democratic Party "talking points" from his "aw-shucks" demeanor at the "flip of a - political - switch."
His 2013 bounce-back might mean that he has pulled off a Bill Clintonesque (1992 presidential primary campaign) Comeback Kid caper and has earned the right to be viewed as Stark County's Comeback Kid.
And if the 2013 results are indicative of renewed political vigor and effectiveness, Mayor William J. Healy, II might be a Perez target in the Democratic primary for mayor that comes up in less than a year from the date of this blog.
Since being elected treasurer, it is the SCPR's take that Perez has ramped up his political activity (speaking out on policy issues [e.g. ending reduction in city income tax credit for Cantonians working out-of-town] and The Report believes the step up is indicative that Perez is not content being the head of Canton's smallest (in terms of number of employees) elected office.
When the SCPR brought the matter up in a May 13th discussion with Democratic mayor William J. Healy, II, he said "he didn't know what Perez was up to" but he did indicate that he found it significant that Perez was addressing policy matters and not focusing on the treasurer's primary job of collecting the city's income tax.
Most of the focus by the SCPR has been on whether or not long term councilman (with a break for 2012 through 2013) Bill Smuckler will be running. And he may be. But if he does, The Report thinks he may well find Perez in the field of candidates.
Smuckler has told The Report that he is only interested in a head-to-head with Healy. So if Perez does get in, if Smuckler does not change his mind on participating in a multi-candidate field, then Smuckler will be out.
A Perez/Healy match up would likely be a heated match up and would cut right through Canton City Council in terms of which councilpersons align with the candidates.
The Report believes that Democrat Kevin Fisher (Ward 5) and Jimmy Babcock (Democrat, at-large), both of who worked for him when he was county auditor, would support a Perez run for mayor. Thomas West, Chris Smith and David Dougherty would likely line up with Healy. And the rest would be prone to be neutral in terms of taking a public position.
As kind of a side note, isn't it interesting that Healy tried to make Perez's brother Rick Stark County Council on Governments (SCOG) Crime Lab director though unqualified under long established job description criteria (calling for a scientist to be in charge) which qualification Healy tried to get excised in a proposed rewrite of the job description.
Actually, the appointment was made but immediatley backed off upon when "the s_ _ t hit the fan with the likes of Healy arch-political-enemy (Healy fired in early 2009 as Canton's service director) and now Stark County commissioner Tom Bernabei who is a member of the SCOG executive committee.
Rick was a former top deputy with former Stark County sheriff Tim Swanson, who at one time designated as being Swanson's choice to succeed him until the political fallout from the Marlboro police chief Ron Devies case took hold in the Stark County policing community) .
The question is whether or not in making the attempt Healy was anticipating a possible challenge from Kim Perez and in appointing brother Rick as Crime Lab boss trying to make it difficult for Kim to take him on?
Perez started out as a Canton city councilman in 1988 (Ward 1). Next he was in place as Canton's auditor (1994 through 2004). And from there he defeated Republican insider and Alliance resident Brant Luther to become Stark County auditor in 2004.
Republican Janet Creighton had defeated Democrat Bill Smuckler in the 2003 Canton mayoralty race.
The Republicans appointed Luther to succeed Creighton as auditor.
The Republicans had held the auditor's office (and, at the time its many, many political patronage jobs) for years and years and years. Creighton was auditor from 1991 through 2003. Alliance Republican William Bowman. held the office from 1975 through 1991. And the SCPR believes that Republican control of the office preceded Bowman.
So it was quite a big deal when Perez wrestled the office from the GOP's appointee Luther.
Just a note on Patricia Fallot (now Louisville's Republican mayor).
She is one of few Stark County politicians who has politically outmaneuvered Perez.
But to be fair to Perez, she used the Canton Repository's "let's give Perez special scrutiny" (as compared to, let's say, Janet Creighton) on whether or not he brings political cronies into office with him (i.e. when he defeated Luther), the SCPR thinks, as a skillful use of political leverage to retain her job has one of Auditor Perez's top employees, though a Republican.
Clearly, in the opinion of The Report, she belonged in a category of originally gotten her job as an auditor employee primarily because of Republican political connections.
But then came 2009 and what local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley labeled as being Zeiglergate.
A very good resource for those readers who are not familiar with Zeiglergate, go to this LINK to get up to date on how it unfolded. The linked article gives Perez and his political allies plenty of space to expound on their view that he was a victim of Zeiglergate as some believe Zeigler himself was.
An interesting point of the referenced link is Perez's historical vote getting power within Canton, to wit:
Traditionally, Canton has been Perez’s support base. During the 2006 election, Perez, a former city councilman and city auditor, swept Canton with huge margins. But this year [referencing Perez's losing 2010 election effort], Harold won 250 out of 364 precincts in Stark County, including 13 Canton precincts.
However, looking at the numbers in the treasurer's race, it is noteworthy that Perez was unable to garner 50% plus of the vote.
Healy did get a majority (53%) in 2011 in the general election when he defeated Republican A.R. "Chip" Conde as he did in the Democratic primary against Smuckler (55%).
To the SCPR, a successful Perez challenge to Healy would not do much for Cantonians.
The Report sees Perez being "six of one" and Healy as being "half-a-dozen of another" in terms of being consummate politicians and having among their allies highly politicized supporters. The SCPR sees both as primarily politicians at heart in need of a taxpayer supported job.
Even so, should he run for mayor and should he win, he definitely will have validated that he has risen from the politically dead and deserving of being thought of as being Stark County's Comeback Kid!