UPDATE: 9:18 a.m. (Additional commentary on the 5th District COA race)
Yesterday, as we have done biannually since we moved to Stark County 39 years ago, my wife and I got up early and at 6:30 a.m. had ourselves in line to vote in the 2014 primary election.
Until the three daughters were all grown up and out on their own (the last one having "flown the coup" by the 1997 elections), the event was a family one in that they tagged along and we went out to eat breakfast to celebrate the exercise of our democratic privilege.
What was a little bit strange about yesterday was that there were "no other voters" in sight!
Don't think we have ever experienced that before.
So it was no surprise to learn in looking at the election results to see this on the Stark BOE website:
Stark County as a part of the greatest and longest standing "democracy" in the world turns out 13.85% of its registered voters.
And over about 60 slots up for election, only 10 were contested. Hmm? 17%. Wow! again.
We Americans really cherish our opportunity to select our leadership, no?
Yesterday, the SCPR wrote that you can write off the Harold/Gruber race as one that will be competitive come November's general election, but - by The Report's calculation - there remain three "key" Stark "countywide" races to be decided this fall.
They are (in order of importance insofar as The Report's assessment):
- Republican Larry Dordea versus Democrat George T. Maier for Stark County sheriff,
- Democrat Chryssa Hartnett versus Curtis Werren for Stark County Court of Common Pleas, and
- Republican Craig Baldwin versus Natalie Haupt District Court of Appeals (which, actually covers 15 Ohio counties of which, of course, Stark County is one),
STARK COUNTY SHERIFF
For anyone who reads Stark County media, the Dordea/Maier match up is likely to draw the most interest in the county.
Because the November, 2012 elected sheriff Mike McDonald could not take office as scheduled on January 7, 2013 due to an illness which cost him his life on February 22, 2013, we Stark Countians are tasked with selecting his successor in this coming November, 2014.
However, getting to the 2014 general election on this particular matter has been a tortured trek to say the least.
To sum it up (from the SCPR's perspective), the problem came in because one George T. Maier had not taken care to read the fine print (i.e. the precise details on how one becomes qualified to run for sheriff) in Ohio Revised Code Section 311.01 and then, when contested, decided to try "politically" bullying his way into being McDonald's successor.
Along the way, he actually got thrown out of office by the Ohio Supreme Court on November 6, 2013 (ironically enough, the day after the 2013 general election).
In that losing effort, Stark County taxpayers footed the bill at $20,000.
However, Maier, who is not much of a politician himself, through the effort of his brother Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. (who the SCPR thinks is Stark County's most powerful Democratic politician) managed to get George through a second Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee (SCDP-CC) selection process to be reappointed as the SCDP-CC choice to serve as sheriff until the voters weigh-in upon November 4th.
Notwithstanding brother Johnnie's supposed political prowess (he was Stark Dems' chairman 2003 - 2009 and remains as executive vice chairman of the Dems), George barely made it through the initial Mike McDonald succession process (February 5, 2013) with a 92 for Maier vote as opposed to - totally politically unsophisticated - Lou Darrow's 84 votes.
Although the SCPR does think that Johnnie is Stark's most powerful Democratic leader, that may not be saying all that much.
For in the wake of brother George's February win (followed by the second win [101 to 66] on December 11th), Stark County's "organized" Democrats are hugely divided on whether or not George T. Maier ought to be (in terms of ORC 311.01 qualifications) sheriff of Stark County.
For George to win in November, he will have to bring the likes of Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero into his political fold.
The SCPR thinks such is very unlikely given that Ferrero has feuded on and off over the years with what The Report calls the Maier Massillon-based Political Machine for years.
As a longtime former Massillon law director, Ferrero is a force in his own right in Massillon and also at the Stark County level by virtue of having been Johnnie's predecessor as Stark County Dems' chairman.
Just as a case in point as to the degree of political "bad blood" that continues to flow between the Maiers and Ferrero, let's look at the matter of Vivianne Whalen Duffrin.
Duffrin, a lawyer, was a long term human resources person for former Sheriff Tim Swanson (who had given Mike McDonald his blessing to succeed him as sheriff).
She even remained after Maier's appointment by the SCDP-CC on February 5th.
However, a matter that did not get a whole lot of publicity at the time was the fact that she weighed in on the George T. Maier qualification question on the wrong side insofar as her longevity at the sheriff's department.
She was of the opinion that George was not qualified under the provisions of ORC 311.01.
Anyone who knows Johnnie A. Maier, Jr knows that he does not forget things like Duffrin's act.
On October 11, 2013 Duffrin was unceremoniously fired by George from sheriff's position and get this: "in the middle of negotiations with various 'union represented' grouped-employees within the department."
How that - "in the middle of negotiations - for George T. Maier looking out for the interests of Stark County taxpayers?
Does anybody doubt that her firing was political payback?
Guess who was back on the job November 7, 2013 after George was ousted by the Ohio Supreme Court on November 6th?
Guess who resigned late in the evening of December 11th after George was reappointed by the Stark Dems that same day?
And where did she end up with new employment?
You've got it!
The staff of Stark County prosecutor John D. Ferrero!!!
If that ain't an "in your face" George T. Maier, the SCPR does not know what it is?
The Report went through the foregoing Duffrin series of event to substantiate the SCPR's belief that a major rift still exists among Stark County "organized" Democrats on whether or not George T. Maier ought to be sheriff.
Accordingly, coming full circle, it is absolutely critical to the Maiers that the organized Democrats discontent not filter out into the Stark County Democratic Party electorate.
For if it does, George T. Maier's last day as Stark County sheriff will be December 31, 2014!
CHRYSSA HARTNETT/CURTIS WERREN
STARK COUNTY CT OF COMMON PLEAS\
Until politics kicked in, Curtis Werren was president of the Stark County chapter of the American Red Cross.
But with the retirement of longtime judge (a Republican) V. Lee Sinclair ("the rocket-docket judge" - always a favorite of the SCPR), Werren, who the SCPR views as a pooh-bah type with intimate ties to the Stark County Republican Party establishment (see Alan Harold's campaign finance report from yesterday's blog to get a sampling of "the establishment) was positioned to be in for a Republican governor John Kasich appointment.
The Report is told that when it was seemingly taking forever for John Kasich to make a decision on who was to replace Sinclair, that Mister Timken got on the telephone with the governor and said: "Governor, when are going to get off your duff and appoint Curt Werren judge."
Well, on June 13, 2013 the governor did get off his duff and appoint Werren.
But in doing so he likely handed Stark County Democrats and more particularly Chryssa Hartnett a Stark County judgeship.
Hartnett, though a Democrat, applied for the job.
And as far as the SCPR is concerned it was "a no contest" in terms of her being vastly more qualified than the pooh-bah-esque Werren.
But what does a politico like Kasich care about "the merit qualifications" of his appointees?
And he is no different than the likes of Democrat Ted Strickland, when he was governor.
However, it is generally thought and known throughout the Stark County legal community that Hartnett as John Ferrero's "top-gun" criminal defendant prosecutor that she should have "on the merits" gotten the Kasich appointment.
That she didn't likely means, the SCPR thinks, that Werren can cite his 17 months or so on the Stark County Court of Common Pleas bench as a resume builder when he prevails upon one his high-brow Republican benefactors to provide him with employment after November 4, 2014.
Werren for sure (with the Timkens et al on his side) will outspend Hartnett who had to borrow $25,000 from her mother (who is a Cincinnati business woman) to get her campaign up and rolling.
The Report thinks that Stark County Democrats ("organized" and unorganized) will come together and the legal community will communicate Hartnett's more impressive credentials and experience to make her Sinclair's "elected by the people" replacement.
CRAIG BALDWIN VERSUS HAUPT
5TH DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS
On the Democratic side of things, there was a name game of sorts going on.
The names Wise and Haupt were vying with one another in the Democratic primary as to who was going to be the standard bearer for the Dems in November to go up against Craig Baldwin, another Kasich appointee to an Ohio judgeship.
Other than their last names, the SCPR does not think either Wise nor Haupt were particularly distinguished candidates for the honor of running in November.
Among Stark's primary voting Democrats, the name Wise stood out in yesterday Stark County.
The 5th District Court of Appeals is composed of 15 counties. Stark County is by far and away the largest of the 15.
Fellow Democrats Haupt and Wise likely decided "to duke it out" because they thought knocking off Republican Baldwin (of Licking County [population 166,492]) though a "retention incumbent" because he has never stood for election in the 5th and his base of Licking County is less than half the size of Stark (375,586), population wise, would be an easy mark.
To the SCPR, such thinking is highly self-serving and so the two waste effort and financial resources running Democrat on Democrat for what they fallaciously (in The Report's analysis) deem to be an easy "meal ticket" onto the bench.
They and Dems' chairman Randy Gonzalez should have gotten together and figured out which one was the best bet to run against Baldwin and which was better suited to run against Republican Kristin Farmer (also a Kasich appointee replacing the retired Charles Brown) in her first try to be elected in her own right.
In doing so, the three of them would have been looking out for Stark County voters having a choice alternative to Farmer come November.
That the Dems (blame mostly Gonzalez, the SCPR thinks) didn't look out providing voters such a choice; for that reason alone, the SCPR says, voters should be reluctant to consider voting for Haupt in November.
As has been pointed out to The Report, since Haupt (magistrate for Judge John Haas, a Democrat) works in the Stark County Common Pleas Court, it would have been awkward to say the least for her to run against Judge Farmer.
So obviously, the thing to have happened was for Wise to run against her and for Haupt to have set up against Baldwin.
Craig Baldwin has impressed Stark County Bar members with his handling of himself while sitting as a Republican governor appointed judge.
With the disparity of 56,773 plus Republican votes in yesterday's primary added to the generally accepted political axiom that Republicans general outvote (in terms of absolute numbers) Democrats in off year elections, look for Craig Baldwin to win easily over Haupt come November.